As recently as three days ago it would not have seemed entirely unreasonable to propose that the remainder of this series would be a closely fought dogfight between two well-matched sides – now, after India’s dismal capitulation inside less than two days worth of actual playing time, that suggestion seems laughable.Before this Test eventually got underway on Friday, this series seemed very much alive – India on the back foot a little after their narrow defeat at Edgbaston, but still the number one side in Test cricket and a team with high hopes of competing against a skilled but also often very flawed England side.
Just 170.3 overs of cricket later and all that has changed. The catalyst? India’s batsmen.
The signs were of course there at Edgbaston, but in a match where only Virat Kohli and Joe Root – two of the best batsmen in world cricket – made a score of more than 70, it was just as easy to suggest that the only way could be up for India’s batsmen.
Instead the opposite has proved true, and with Kohli making a total of only 40 runs in the match, India’s entire team managed to make less than 100 runs more in both innings here at Lord’s than their skipper managed in his superb 149 last week at Edgbaston.
Despite their struggles with the moving ball at Edgbaston, India would undoubtedly have expected improvements in the second Test.
To start with they had had a look at England bowlers, and with Ben Stokes missing – second only to James Anderson for the amount of swing he produced last week – and Cheteshwar Pujara brought in to strengthen their card, that improvement did not seem totally unreasonable.
Unreasonable or not it could not have been further from the disastrous reality of their performance in the second Test, a performance which, with every wayward shot, left the tourists staring down the increasingly believable prospect of a 5-0 series whitewash.
At Edgbaston, in the first and second innings, India reached 100 four and five wickets down respectively. At Lord’s they fared even worse, only bringing up three figures for the loss of nine wickets first time around and six the second.
In neither innings did they even manage to score more than the 137 runs that Chris Woakes made, and to add insult to injury, he didn’t even get out.
England, in the home conditions that suit their bowlers so well, did bowl some excellent spells at Lord’s, but this is Test cricket and the number one side in the world – with aspirations of securing the big overseas series win that would see off accusations of being just home track bullies – should be doing much better.
Patience is required to play the moving ball in England, a patience that seemed to be in extremely short supply whenever India had the bat in their hands.
Murali Vijay might have got a good ball from Anderson, but he made it look even better, five balls into the first day of play in a Test is no time to be attempting wristy flicks through midwicket – particularly not when the bowler is a man (at the time) on 544 Test wickets.
That figure now stands at 553, Anderson’s nine fresh scalps making him the most successful bowler of all time in matches between the two sides.
One of those victims, and arguably the man guilty of two of the loosest dismissals in the match, was Ajinkya Rahane – the promise shown on India’s last tour of England seemingly increasingly distant.
Rahane has so far only once failed to make double figures in this series, showing a capability to play the moving ball but not the discipline required to capitalise. In the first innings here he reached 18 before impatience got the better of him, reaching for a delivery from Anderson, in the second he made 13 before again chasing a wide one.
His struggles encapsulate the problem as a whole for India’s batsmen, time and time again impatience and indiscipline costing them their wickets as much as skill from England’s bowlers.
Currently Ravi Ashwin’s 33*, in the second innings on Saundy at Lord’s, is the highest score in this series by an Indian batsman whose surname isn’t Kohli – if that doesn’t change pretty quickly then this is going to be a long and painful series for India.
First Published: August 13, 2018, 12:41 AM IST