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Test hangs in the balance

- Bhuvneshwar & Vijay take centre stage
Murali Vijay, on way to his unbeaten 59, on the third day of the second Test, at Lordís, on Saturday. (AP)

London: It hasn’t been edge-of-the-seat stuff at Lord’s, but the contest in Test No.2 has been fierce.

Liam Plunkett’s maiden fifty helped England force a 24-run lead. Then, in their second innings, India held the aces till three wickets were lost in the final session.

Murali Vijay (59 batting) and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, though, played out the last 71 minutes of an extended day to ensure the match was delicately balanced.

At 169 for four India are 145 in front, with much depending on how Dhoni controls the innings. Two days remain.

The wicket lacked the venom of the first day, but the bounce has become uneven. Surprisingly, so early on itself, some balls either kept low or took off.

“It’s evenly balanced... We’d like to set a target of 350, but our first goal is to have 300 on the board... The bounce has become variable and we’ll have to bat well tomorrow (Sunday),” Cheteshwar Pujara said.

Pujara, a solid batsman himself, praised Vijay (centurion in the first Test): “He left the balls very well and his shot selection was so good. There’s much to learn from this innings of his.”

Indeed, Vijay knew exactly where his off stump stood and showed the patience of a Mahatma on fast.

Pujara looked good till he fell after tea. He admitted that he’d erred and added he was “happy” with the way he was concentrating, but needed to convert starts into something substantial.

A big score from the No.3 shouldn’t be far off.

Of the four dismissals, Ajinkya Rahane was taken off the arm guard. India had to swallow umpire Bruce Oxenford’s howler as their opposition has kept the DRS away from the five Test series.

Asked about the absence of the DRS, Pujara turned diplomatic: “Let’s leave it to the ICC and the BCCI.”

Saying anything out of turn may, after all, invite ‘action’ from the BCCI.

Fact, of course, is that Oxenford has been having a poor series.

Earlier, young Bhuvneshwar Kumar was the toast of India’s dressing room, returning figures of six for 82.

The last time that any Indian had six wickets (in an innings) at Lord’s was exactly 40 years ago, when Bishan Singh Bedi entered the Honours’ Board.

“A fantastic effort... I’ve liked Bhuvi from the first time I saw him, in December 2012... He’s got more disciplined and showed how to exploit helpful conditions...

“I’ll be happier if Bhuvi adds five yards or so to his pace. He’ll then often be unplayable,” former India captain Kapil Dev told The Telegraph.

Well, Bhuvneshwar should work towards that.

Footnote: Narayanswamy Srinivasan is understood to have arrived in the city, in his capacity as the ICC chairman, and is expected at Lord’s on Day IV.