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Unlikely Plunkett knock helps England to slender lead

LONDON: England claimed a slim first-innings lead thanks to some lusty lower-order hitting and Liam Plunkett’s maiden half century on the third morning of the second test against India at Lord’s on Saturday.

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England resumed at 219 for six in pursuit of India’s first innings tally of 295 and nightwatchman Plunkett (55 not out), assisted by Matt Prior and number 11 James Anderson, knocked off the 76-run deficit with the innings eventually ending on 319.

India were 11 without loss in their second innings at lunch with Murali Vijay, who had yet to score, and Shikhar Dhawan (10) set to resume after the break.

Plunkett, through a mixture of expansive shots and edges behind the wicket, reached his first test 50 off 75 balls, with India’s bowlers unable to generate much movement despite the overhead conditions.

The Yorkshire quick made a fast start alongside Prior before the wicketkeeper fell to a good catch by Shikhar Dhawan off Mohammed Shami for 23.

India’s standout bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar (6-82) secured a well-deserved five-wicket haul when he bowled Ben Stokes for a duck and claimed his sixth wicket when Stuart Broad (4) clipped him to Dhawan at slip.

However James Anderson, fresh off his top score of 81 in the drawn first test at Trent Bridge, offered fellow paceman Plunkett good support as they raced past the 300 mark.

They put on 39 at nearly run a ball for the final wicket before Anderson fell for 19, England having scored 100 runs in the morning session to lead by 24.

Number three Gary Ballance was the backbone of England’s innings on Friday, reaching his second test century off 186 balls before falling for 110 shortly after the new ball was taken. (Reuters)

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