|Liam Plunkett celebrates the wicket of Cheteshwar Pujara, during the second Test, at Lord’s, on Saturday. (AFP)
Liam Plunkett’s performance on Day III of the second Test, at Lord’s, is the reason for the game to be still in balance.
Earlier, in the day, Plunkett hit an unbeaten 55 to help England take a 24-run first-innings lead. He took two wickets off consecutive deliveries to peg back the visitors. The wickets came at a time when India looked to be going strong in their second essay.
He knows it well that his job is far from over and feels early wickets on Sunday morning will tilt the balance in the home team’s favour.
“The game is balanced at the moment. But if we come out in the morning and get a couple of quick wickets, the game will swing in our favour. I hope we come out and play good cricket and knock a few of their wickets off. Then, we should aim to chase down whatever the target they set for us... The bowlers need to ensure that India don’t set us a target of beyond 300 on this surface,” the 29-year-old said.
Plunkett did admit that the kind of pitch on offer here might lead to an interesting finish. “It’s a great cricket wicket… There is a little bit for everyone. Good to bat on when you’re in and still nibbling about a bit for the bowlers.
“I think the sun is just going to make it a bit flatter,” he said.
Talking about his bowling, Plunkett highlighted on changing his length that has helped him put in a better show as of now. Aggression, too, was a key factor, he added.
“India were 70-odd for one at one point in time. I was thinking of nipping out a couple of their batsmen and get India, say at 100-odd for four. The change of length worked for me. I felt in good rhythm… I also got the line right. I didn’t give them any loose deliveries. I am quite happy with my effort,” Plunkett said.
Speaking further, he said: “I got it absolutely wrong in the first innings. So, it’s just about judging the right line and length to bowl. I adjusted this time around and felt a lot better.
“I’m quite an aggressive bowler. That’s how I’ve got myself back in the England team, by being aggressive. And I got my wickets at Headingley by being aggressive, with some short stuff on a wicket that nipped around early.
“I didn’t want to take my aggression away from myself (because) I would then end up bowling 80mph deliveries with nothing on them.”
Asked about missing out on a hat-trick, Plunkett commented: “When (Virat) Kohli came in, I just wanted to hit off-stump as hard as I could. I was trying to get the nick, but it just kept its line and took the top of off.
“The next ball was exactly the same. I was running in, and didn’t want to give him a half-volley and get him off the mark. But I just got my line wrong.
“When a new batsman comes in, you try to get him in that channel to play irrespective of whether you’re bowling a hat-trick ball.
Talking about his batting and partnership with Matt Prior, Plunkett said: “Matt and I are both quite aggressive players, and if the ball is in our area, we tend to score off it.
“I take great pride in my batting. I love to do it. When I started in the juniors, I was mainly a batsman, and I still work hard at it.
“Those runs at the end can be crucial, as Jimmy (Anderson) showed in the last game.
“Last night, I restricted myself not to play certain shots and was just trying to line it up. Obviously today, I had freedom to play my shots.”
In the second innings, India lost three wickets in quick succession but fought back through Murali Vijay’s gutsy half-century to take their overall lead to 145.
Vijay is in company of skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who survived a hostile spell from Stuart Broad to remain undefeated on 12 off 51 balls having added crucial 46 runs with Vijay for the fifth wicket.
The Tamil Nadu opener has shown tremendous patience during his 190-ball knock which had seven fours. What impressed about Vijay was his decisiveness while leaving deliveries outside the off-stump.
With England batting deep, it will be interesting to see what kind of target is set by the Indian batsmen.