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Cricket – Aggressive streak pleases Plunkett

The all-rounder’s maiden Test 50 helped the hosts to 319 all out, and a lead of 24; then, after a second-wicket stand of 74 between Murali Vijay (59no) and Cheteshwar Pujara, he put himself on a Test hat-trick for the third time this summer.

As at Headingley last month, Plunkett did not manage the three-in-three – in fact, he has never done so in his first-class career – but he induced a wobble of three wickets for five runs, before Vijay and Mahendra Singh Dhoni closed out day three on 169 for four.

Victory, and a 1-0 lead for either side, is therefore up for grabs.

For Plunkett, who took nine wickets against Sir Lanka in Leeds, another impressive performance has consolidated his belated return to Test cricket.

If the 29-year-old learned anything in his seven-year absence, it was that he must be true to what works best for him.

He has often been deployed by captain Alastair Cook to rattle opposition batsmen with bounce and pace – and although it was a fuller length that brought him the wickets of Pujara and then Virat Kohli here, his intent was the same.

“I changed my length. I obviously got my lengths wrong first innings,” he said. “But I’m quite an aggressive bowler.

“That’s how I’ve got myself back in the England team – by being aggressive – and I got my wickets at Headingley by being aggressive, with some short stuff on a wicket that nipped around early as well.

“I didn’t want to take my aggression away from myself….(because) I’ll end up bowling 80mph swingers with nothing on it.

“So it’s just judging the right line and length to bowl. I got it wrong first innings, adjusted and felt a lot better.”

Plunkett made the shortest possible work of Kohli, depicted as India’s new batting powerhouse but light on runs so far in this series.

He added: “When Kohli came in, I just wanted to hit off-stump as hard as I could.

“I was trying to get the nick, but it just kept its line and took the top of off.”

The hat-trick ball passed harmlessly wide of Dhoni, but Plunkett knows these days he can take wickets in clusters when he gets it right.

“It was exactly the same,” he said.

“I was running in, and didn’t want to give him a floaty half-volley and get him off the mark.

“I just got my line wrong.

“It’s happened in last few years, when I’ve felt good and got into a rhythm, I get wickets quickly….I can get three or four in a spell.”

He began his all-round contribution with an unbeaten 55, and an important half-century stand with Matt Prior in which his attacking instincts also paid off.

“Matt and I are both quite aggressive players, and if the ball is in our area we tend to score off it,” he said. “I take pride in my batting. I love to do it.”

Plunkett was promoted to number seven as nightwatchman the previous evening, and made a much better fist of the role than he had when he made a second-innings duck on the way to defeat at Headingley.

“You learn from your mistakes,” he added. “Last night, I restricted myself not to play certain shots and was just trying to line it up.

“Obviously today, I had freedom to play my shots.”

England will need to make sure India do not get too far in front, but Plunkett is confident a significant run chase is within the hosts’ capabilities.

He said: “I hope in the morning we can come out and nick a few off, and then aim to chase whatever….as little as possible, ideally…but 250, 300 on that.

“It’s a good wicket, and I think the sun’s just going to make it a bit flatter. This is a great cricket wicket, good to bat on when you’re in and still nibbling about a bit for the bowler.”

Pujara, unsurprisingly, favours India’s chances.

“We need somewhere around 300 runs on the board,” he said.

“The wicket has been deteriorating a bit. We have seen variable bounce, so we are confident.

“The first thing is to bat well tomorrow.”

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