England v India: Liam Plunkett burst leaves Lord's Test in balance

By Sam SheringhamBBC Sport at Lord's
England's Liam Plunkett and Joe Root
Liam Plunkett (left) has been on a hat-trick three times for England this summer
Second Test, Lord's (day three)
India 295 & 169-4 v England 319

Liam Plunkett took two wickets in two balls to keep England's hopes of ending their nine-match winless streak alive in an absorbing second Test against India at Lord's.

Just as India were assuming control with a second-wicket partnership of 78, Plunkett removed Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli before Stuart Broad benefitted from an umpiring error to add the wicket of Ajinkya Rahane in the evening session of the third day.

Murali Vijay held firm to reach 59 not out and captain Mahendra Dhoni rode his luck to make an unbeaten 12 as India closed on 169-4 in their second innings, 145 ahead.

Plunkett's unbeaten 55 earlier helped England add 100 to their overnight 219-6 to post 319 in reply to India's 295.

Much will now hinge on the opening exchanges of Sunday's play as England seek to take the final six India wickets quickly and give themselves a manageable target in the fourth innings on a pitch starting to bounce unevenly.

Only two sides have chased more than 218 to win a Test at Lord's - the West Indies' 344-1 in 1984 and England's 282-3 against New Zealand 10 years ago.

"We're going to go hard in the morning because this is still a good cricket wicket and if we can get a few more wickets, we'll fancy our chances," said Plunkett.

"It's a good wicket, they always get better at Lord's. If someone gets in, you can score quickly. I think we can chase around 270."

BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew
"England have had chances to win every Test match this year and squandered them all. After striking three times in Saturday's evening session, they have opened the door again. This time, they must kick it down. We know this is a team lacking confidence that struggles when it comes to the crunch in matches. But sooner or later that has to stop. If they can somehow scramble over the line at some point over the next two days, it would give them an enormous lift."

Plunkett's burst has given England an opportunity they will be desperate not to squander after the 5-0 Ashes whitewash, the 1-0 home series loss to Sri Lanka and the draw at Trent Bridge in the first Test of a five-match series.

After Joe Root had taken a spectacular catch at backward point to remove Shikhar Dhawan for 31, Saturday was in danger of becoming another frustrating day for captain Alastair Cook and his men with Vijay and Pujara steadily building India's lead in the late afternoon sunshine.

But three wickets for five runs in 19 balls brought England right back into contention.

First, Pujara got a faint nick through to Prior from a full delivery, then the out-of-form Kohli shouldered arms at his first ball and lost his off stump.

Although Plunkett's hat-trick ball drifted harmlessly wide of off stump, England did not have to wait long to take their next wicket, albeit in fortunate circumstances.

A Broad bouncer struck Rahane in the middle of the arm guard and Matt Prior sprinted to leg gully to claim a diving catch.

At 123-4, India's lead was only 99 runs and England wanted more, but their efforts were frustrated by a frenetic innings from Dhoni.

Highest successful Test run-chases at Lord's
344-1: West Indies v England, 1984
282-3: England v New Zealand, 2004
218-3: England v New Zealand, 1965
193-5: England v West Indies, 2012
191-8: England v West Indies, 2000
163-2: England v Bangladesh, 2010
141-8: Pakistan v England, 1992

Looking anything but convincing as he survived numerous lbw appeals and was almost bowled around his legs, Dhoni somehow survived, adding a potentially pivotal 46 with Vijay.

At the start of the day, England lost Prior, Broad and Ben Stokes in quick succession but were bolstered by a last-wicket partnership of 39 between James Anderson and Plunkett, who completed his first Test fifty.

Prior was caught off a top-edged pull for 23 by Dhawan, back-pedalling from first slip, before Bhuvneshwar Kumar completed his six-wicket haul by bowling Stokes and having Broad caught at slip off an expansive drive.

But a 15-run deficit was turned into a 24-run advantage by Plunkett and Anderson, who cracked 13 fours between them.

Away from the action, the MCC issued an apology after a member of the groundstaff was spotted dragging his feet along the pitch at Lord's.

Shane Doherty, who was not wearing spikes or studs, slid his right foot along the line of the stumps as he brushed away loose dirt, but the MCC said it was a "genuine, honest mistake" with "no intent to damage the pitch".

Listen to Geoffrey Boycott and Jonathan Agnew review the day's play on the Test Match Special podcast.

England's Ben Stokes
Ben Stokes's last nine England innings have yielded five ducks and a highest score of five
India's Cheteshwar Pujara
Cheteshwar Pujara was the first of three India wickets to fall for five runs in 19 balls
India's Murali Vijay
Murali Vijay spent more than four-and-a-half hours over his unbeaten 59

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