There's something about Chris Woakes and the Lord's Cricket Ground. He produced his breakthrough bowling spell at the iconic venue against Pakistan in 2016. The Birmingham-born cricketer's prowess as an all-rounder came to the fore when he slammed his maiden fifty at the de facto home of cricket against Sri Lanka in 2016.
With Ben Stokes' affray trial opening up a place in the playing eleven, Woakes returned to action after an injury-enforced absence. He could not have had a better venue for his comeback match.
After triggering India's collapse by delivering a stellar spell during the previous day, Woakes drove them out of the game and possibly the series by hammering his maiden Test century. Even as the Lord's faithful cheered every run on a warm Saturday afternoon, he joined hands with Jonny Bairstow and placed England on the pathway towards an emphatic victory at Lord's.
Having seen their batsmen implode for just 107 under cloudy conditions, the Indian bowlers found themselves burdened with unreasonable pressure to weave magic at the start of the sunny third day's play. Despite a wayward start, they reduced England to a precarious 89/4 at lunch.
Mohammed Shami, by far the only penetrative Indian bowler on view, left the hosts in a major lurch by removing the dangerous Jos Buttler. He had taken three wickets and was steaming in. With England's lead standing at a mere 24 runs, Woakes joined Bairstow in the middle.
Ruthless Woakes pummels listless India
Woakes began his innings on a rather shaky note. An outside edge off Shami managed to evade the slip cordon and find its way to the boundary. In the very next over, Ishant Sharma unleashed a well-directed bouncer to have him fend in an ungainly manner.
Realising that the only serious threats were Shami and Ishant, Bairstow and Woakes absorbed the pressure smartly. They ensured that India's two specialist seamers did not do any further damage. When the visitors had to resort to off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin for some last-gasp miracle, the floodgates well and truly opened.
Woakes and Bairstow preyed on Pandya's inconsistent bowling. Meanwhile, Ashwin was struggling to find his rhythm on a non-conducive surface. Boundaries started to flow thick and fast. The sixth-wicket partnership was blossoming even as England's lead swelled rapidly.
Woakes had his fair share of luck too. On another day, those inside-edges might have crashed onto the stumps instead of running into the boundary. Nevertheless, his imperious drive highlighted the significant shift in momentum.
During the post-tea session, Woakes tore into Ashwin. After lifting the off-spinner for almost a six through the mid-wicket region, he capitalised on the shortened length by rocking on the back foot. The all-rounder's sudden upswing in tempo made even the dynamic Bairstow appear pedestrian in comparison.
Woakes brought up a well-deserved maiden international century by swatting Pandya over the in-field. India's humiliation was complete as Ashwin slipped near the boundary. The 29-year old duly collected the three required runs. The electric smile on his face revealed the momentous of the occasion.
While Bairstow perished seven runs short of three-figures, Woakes ended the third day unbeaten on 120. Upon arriving in a palpably tense situation, the all-rounder had batted brilliantly to take England to a dominant lead of 250 runs. Along the way, he had also made Lord's his bastion.Published 11 Aug 2018, 23:17 IST