Plunkett shines in close contest

Liam Plunkett's half-century put England into a first-innings lead

Liam Plunkett's half-century put England into a first-innings lead

First published in National Sport News © by

Liam Plunkett's maiden Test fifty helped England eke out a first-innings lead, despite six wickets for Bhuvneshwar Kumar, in an intriguingly poised contest against India at Lord's.

Plunkett's 75-ball half-century, after his promotion to number seven as nightwatchman the previous evening, was a telling contribution on a cloudy third morning of this second Investec Test.

It helped England to 319 all out, and an overall advantage of 24, before India had to bat for 15 minutes and took lunch on 11 without loss.

In the best overhead bowling conditions of the match, Plunkett (55 not out) and Matt Prior completed a quickfire and very handy 51-run stand for the seventh wicket.

They were not always convincing, but cashed in regular boundaries - eight, in fact, until Prior mistimed an attempted pull at Mohammed Shami and was very well caught by Shikhar Dhawan running back from slip to hold a steepler.

Plunkett's awareness and footwork had saved him, on 30, when an inside edge on to pad off Shami was heading directly back towards middle stump before he volleyed it away.

Ben Stokes continued his unenviable sequence of three successive ducks for England, and four runs in his last five international innings, bowled through the gate attempting to drive Kumar (six for 82).

Stuart Broad then counted four between gully and point first ball but edged his second delivery to Dhawan at slip as Kumar took his fifth and sixth wickets in the same over.

The nagging seamer's instant follow-up was a perfect way to celebrate his place on the Lord's honours board, but he got no change out of number 11 James Anderson.

Doubtless still on a high from his world-record batting heroics and career-best at Trent Bridge, Anderson had the confidence to smack his second ball past cover for four to end an especially eventful over.

He stuck around too to make 19 of the 39 he and Plunkett added for the last wicket this time, before gloving an attempted reverse sweep at Ravindra Jadeja straight into the hands of slip.

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