Sunday 12th August 2018, Lord’s, St John’s Wood, London. England have just thrashed a limp India by an innings and 159 runs to take a 2-0 lead in the 5 match test series. Pole position for the hosts and a 4 or 5-0 win is on the cards. Fast forward 9/10 days and the roles are reversed in regards of performance. The tourists have produced a remarkable turnaround with solid batting and outstanding bowling which enticed the English into batting cluelessness on numerous occasions. A 203 run victory at Trent Bridge in the 3rd test is the result, which has now opened up the series. The Indians have the momentum now.
It is sometime ago now that Joe Root won the toss in Nottingham and elected to bowl. To be fair an understandable decision as India’s batting in the 2nd test was awful and this afforded further opportunity to terrorise their batting. However the tourists stood up, showing good technique and patience managing a respectable 329 runs in their first innings. Now for the hosts to respond, reaching 54-0 at lunch on the second day, things looked promising. However after the break they lost ALL 10 wickets in the session, a deplorable batting display – collapsing to 161 all out. This was when the test was lost. The second innings was not much better (chasing an unlikely 500+ to win) – especially when it was meant to be about patience and digging in. A number of the mainline batsmen clearly didn’t get that memo, only a 169 run 5th wicket partnership between Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes as well as some spirited lower order resistance made their second innings score of 317 look anything near respectable.
Firstly, massive credit to India. After their debacle at Lord’s, it would have been easy to just let the rest of this tour drift, similarly to what happened on their previous visit to these shores in 2014, but they showed exactly why they are the number one test team in the world, bouncing back in superb fashion. For me they were always going to find batting form on this tour at some point, with the initial problem, in my opinion, occurring because of their lack of preparation prior to the series starting (one, 3 day match is not enough). Their 329 first innings total gave their bowlers something to play with and thanks to some brilliantly accurate bowling and some clueless batting from the opposition, they showed they are more than capable of competing in this series. Captain Virat Kohli was the main man again with 200 runs in the test match, but this time it was not a lone furrow and he was supported, with all of his frontline batsman contributing. Whatever was said by the aforementioned captain and coach, Ravi Shastri, prior to this match was huge as the team responded brilliantly. They will head to the Ageas Bowl with their confidence sky high.
LEARNINGS AND THE SAME OLD HABITS
Clearly India are on the up and the fact that there will have been over a weeks break before the 4th test will be negative for them and a positive for the hosts. However their batsmen now know they can play in these conditions and construct innings to build a total to put England under pressure, which will allow their bowlers opportunity to seek advantage. England on the other hand have a few questions to answer, especially regarding their batting, which was lamentable at times at Trent Bridge, showing no pride at all in trying to actually bat for time and earn the right to score runs. The worrying thing is this is a regular occurrence for the host nation and makes you wonder how they are coached and whether they listen to any advice given. Regular England watchers will not be surprised, but they would be ever more exasperated!
In my preview blog to the series, I predicted a quick start for England with India to come back strong, something we have most definitely seen so far. We are now at a tantalizing stage, momentum is most definitely with the tourists and the hosts will have to battle to protect their lead. England are no strangers to heavy defeats then bouncing back, only last year they lost heavily against South Africa, ironically at Trent Bridge, but then went on to defeat the Proteas convincingly in the final 2 tests of that series. Moeen Ali was a key part and having already been a regular in the squad throughout this series, he might well get in the starting 11 at this crucial stage. I have predicted 3-1, so that is now more likely than it may have seemed after Lord’s. One of the remaining tests to be won by England with weather winning the other one, but whatever the situation India have shown they will not go down without a fight.
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