The 26 wicketless overs that England needed to take the lead this morning saw Mahendra Singh Dhoni look far and wide. His bowling changes and funky field placements failed to dislodge the last-wicket pair of Joe Root and James Anderson. Dhoni tried everything. He even threw the ball to opener Murali Vijay.
But the one bowler that went unused, even in this period of desperation, was all-rounder Stuart Binny. He was to be the 4th pacer who was expected to chip in with a wicket or two and bowl longish spells to ease the burden on the frontline pacers. In his first outing, he did neither. Ishant Sharma (38), Bhuvneshwar Kumar (30.5) and Mohammed Shami (29) had to be persisted with since Binny’s 10 overs weren’t convincing.
The first session showed that India not only misread the pitch, but had picked the wrong horse. They hadn’t even utilised the available resources well or employed the right tactics. These are early days in the series, but there are those who vouch that the famous Dhoni ‘Test match freeze’ might have been sighted at Trent Bridge.
Dhoni was to start the day with Bhuvneshwar and Sharma. After a couple of overs by Bhuvneshwar, he went back to Shami. The plan was to bowl short to Anderson and surround him with a circle of close-in fielders. The ploy looks great on paper but not on the dead Trent Bridge track. The other reason for it not succeeding was the lack of surprise. The ‘pitch map’ of the balls that Anderson faced had a giant beehive before the half-way mark.
The English No.11 had no problem handling those balls that rose like a lazy late-riser. Eventually, when the ball did reach him, he would guide them over slips or slash hard at them. Even if he edged those balls, they would travel over the close-in fielders. Dhoni persisted with the tactic for far too long as Anderson got easy runs. It was only after 10 overs that Ravinder Jadeja was introduced. By now the early morning jitters were out of the way and they could handle spin easily.
Finally, when Anderson did get out, it was off a fullish ball from Bhuveshwar that moved away. That was exactly how most frontline English batsmen had got out. Treating a tailender differently had made India suffer.
There were many questions asked about India on Friday. One was from Geoffrey Boycott from the commentary box: “What is the man who bowls off-spin and carrom balls doing in the dressing room?”