If you walked in to watch a spot of Test cricket at Lord's on Thursday morning, you would not be blamed if you found it a little difficult to pick out the pitch from the rest of the ground. A green-as-they-come pitch greeted India, after that dead as a dodo deck in Nottingham in the first Test, with the added challenge of being put into bat first – the England bowlers, James Anderson, in particular, chomping at the bit to have a go, with a grin on their faces at the prospect of ripping through this relatively inexperienced Indian batting order.
However, this youngish India side have plenty of fight and quality in them when they are really up for it, and with Ajinkya Rahane stroking a marvellous hundred, the visitors, dogged and elegant, pulled themselves to a not-bad-not-bad-at-all 290 for nine in 90 overs, with the England bowlers, despite the green carpet, made to work really hard for their wickets.
While Anderson (22-7-55-4), expectedly, came in with a bit of fire in his belly following the lead up involving him and Ravindra Jadeja and the rest of the India team, bowling brilliantly at times, Rahane showed class, and then some, with the bat to bail India out of some serious trouble, with some help from Bhuvneshwar Kumar, after the post-Lunch session came back to haunt them yet again.
India were staring down a dark, dark alley at 145 for seven on day one of the second Test, before a brilliant and surprisingly serene, considering the circumstances, 90-run partnership between Rahane (103) and Bhuvneshwar (36) pulled India out of seriously choppy waters. England, who did not have the greatest of days with the ball, bowling a little too short at times (Anderson not included, of course), would get both their men with the second new ball, but not before the duo had done their jobs and showed India might not be as bad as they are painted to be on a wicket with plenty of grass.
It all began on a rather "yeah was expecting this" note with Shikhar Dhawan (7, 11b, 1x4), all at sea with the moving ball, finding that often-found outside edge through to Gary Ballance in the slips, albeit from a peach of a delivery from how-dare-you-accuse-me Anderson, who in the process became the highest wicket taker in England of all-time going past Fred Trueman's record of 229 wickets.
Dhawan's opening partner Murali Vijay could have followed him back to the pavilion in the very next over had Matt Prior, who was yet again iffy behind the wicket, held on to a low catch off Stuart Broad. It seemed like being a costly miss, as Vijay, centurion from the first Test, hung in and battled through the nippy morning (and that is not in ode to the weather) along with the impenetrable Cheteshwar Pujara.
Both batsmen played good Test match cricket, but the England bowlers, a little too excited with a pitch that had carry and greenery, played right into India's hands by bowling too short and too wide.
They did break through a little before Lunch, though, as Liam Plunkett, who apart from that wicket was pretty unconvincing, with the short-pitch barrage, particularly with the older ball, not working at all, found the outside edge of Vijay (24, 67b, 4x4) with Ballance, wide awake and in his senses, unlike a few days ago, again grabbing the catch.
England could have made it their session had Prior managed to snare Virat Kohli, who caught a nice outside edge off Moeen Ali's first over in the final over before Lunch. However, India's session it was with Pujara and Kohli walking back into the pavilion for a meal looking quite compact in the middle.
Kohli, who missed out at Trent Bridge, was in positive mood right from the off, and looked to keep his boundary-hitting ways going in the post-Lunch session, but that curse where the batsmen just seem to lose their way in the second session struck again with India losing four wickets for just 67 runs in the 28 overs.
The right-handed Kohli (25, 34b 4x4) was the first to go, falling prey to a ripper from Anderson, which tailed in before moving just a touch away to take the edge through to Prior, who completed the catch this time diving to his right.
Kohli's wicket left India on a "we need to hang in here" 86 for three, but it was all downhill in that session for the away side as Pujara, MS Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja all fell to leave India teetering on 128 for six.
Pujara (28, 117b, 4x4) became Ben Stokes' only victim of the day, failing to get behind an in-dipper and seeing the top of middle stump knocked back. With Dhoni at the crease, Alastair Cook brought Broad, who was not having his best day, bowling a little too short for comfort, back and the England fast bowler immediately started troubling the India skipper.
Dhoni (1, 17b) did everything to try and cut out the swing, even walking forward to nullify the movement, but that penchant for pushing at deliveries outside off just could not be vanquished as Broad (22-5-79-2), pressing and probing and quite enjoying himself bowling to the batsman, picked up his favourite victim off an outside edge which flew through to Prior.
Jadeja (3, 11b) did not last too long either, playing down the wrong line off Ali, and getting trapped in front of the wicket. Stuart Binny, fresh from his impressive under-pressure innings in the second innings of the first Test, looked to play with a positive frame of mind again, but with Anderson in the mood that he was in, it was only a matter of time.
If England thought they were going to bowl out India, who were on 145 for seven in 57.2 overs following Binny's lbw, they were in for a surprise as Bhuvneshwar found his batting mojo yet again, and with Rahane looking as at home as an Irishman in a pub, India grabbed some much-needed momentum.
As the ball got older and older, the batting duo got more comfortable with Bhuvneshwar showing a couple of the top order batsmen just how to bat on this wicket, leaving the ball when he needed to, and finding the boundaries when a bad ball was on offer.
Rahane and Bhuvneshwar put on a priceless-as-they-come and assured 90 from 24.4 overs, taking India from a possible 170-odd all out to a score well on course to one crossing 250. England, desperate to break the partnership, expectedly took the new ball from the moment it was due, and Bhuvneshwar (36, 84b, 7x4) was castled by Broad in the second over with the new cherry in hand.
However, with India now on a strong 235 for eight, and Rahane just looking plain good, India would have been confident of seeing off the rest of the overs, with the right-hander getting to his hundred with a peach of a back-foot drive through the covers.
A couple of deliveries after that brilliant boundary for his century, though, Rahane (103, 154b, 15x4, 1x6) would finally fall, with Anderson grabbing a one-handed catch off his own bowling following an uppish drive from the India right-hander. Mohammed Shami (14 n.o.), promoted to No. 10, and Ishant Sharma (12 n.o.) saw off the rest of the 20 deliveries to ensure India would not end a quite satisfying first day at Lord's all out.