Those who thought that Hurricane Bertha, expected to hit Britain on Sunday, would wash out the fourth day’s play and, thereby, save India in this Test, were assuming way too much. Weather in the United Kingdom and India’s cricketers in England are equally untrustworthy. Rain forecasts are always dodgy but the speculators had overestimated India’s Test match temperament this time.
Forget rainy Sunday and an overcast Monday, India couldn’t survive a sunny Saturday. Under clear blue skies, the Indians were washed away by a near perfect England unit. Now, were it to rain on Sunday, the Indians will gaze out of their hotel’s drenched window panes to look painfully within. After the third day’s play, India need a massive rethink. At Lord’s last month, one thought that India had seen off the tough transition period. The 1-0 lead at the end of the thrilling Test made you believe that India’s Test team had found its worthy replacements. That was just an illusion.
Old Trafford proved that this was indeed India of old — a side that faltered abroad, filled with batsmen who couldn’t survive pace, spin or pressure. India’s batters neither adapted nor adjusted. And their bowlers were unidimensional and far from having a Plan B. To add to that, India’s slip fielders continued to drop vital catches and the wicketkeeper missed crucial run-outs. MS Dhoni may be a World Cup-winning captain and the boldest batsman in this Test match, but he desperately needs a crash course in the ‘Art of Test match captaincy’. England were better in every department, thus they won by an innings and 54 runs with two days to spare. The margin of the victory only mirrored the gulf between the two sides in this Test.
Second best in every session
For the second Test in succession, India were second best in every session of play. They couldn’t keep the upper hand over England for more than an hour. Before lunch today, England scored runs at a quick enough pace to begin thinking of a possible declaration.
Bizarre team tactics resulted in India’s pacers bowling with men guarding the square when the conditions were supporting swing. R Ashwin didn’t get to bowl on a pitch where a rival offie, Moeen Ali, would finish with 4/39.
Observing the ineffective tactics from the commentary box, Aussie legend Shane Warne said that Dhoni almost seemed to be bored. He went on to add how the Indian skipper’s gimmicky bowling changes and funky field placements were better suited for the shorter version of the game. Yes, it makes sense to try something new once in a while, but not when the need of the hour was the good-old plan of aiming for the top of off-stump.
Once England were bowled out (Stuart Broad had to retire hurt), the Indians would have first looked to survive a curtailed second session and then an extended period after tea to compensate for the loss of time on Day Two. They couldn’t do even that as the Indian batsmen collectively went cold again. In the first innings, they were 8/4 in half an hour. In the second, India lost 5 wickets in just 25 minutes. Broad’s bowling wasn’t even missed. The Indians weren’t batting like Joe Root and Jos Buttler, while James Anderson and Moeen Ali were much better than India’s set of pacers and spinners.
Same old mistakes
The Indian batsmen continued to repeat mistakes of old. Gautam Gambhir was beaten by bounce, Virat Kohli nicked another away going ball and Cheteshwar Pujara, although unlucky to be given LBW, was certainly beaten by Ali’s off-spin again. Once the top order had succumbed, it was only a matter of time.
To make the difference between the two sides very obvious, England put a flawless performance on the field. Ian Bell and Chris Jordan were sharp behind the stumps while Gary Ballance pulled off a stunning catch at short midwicket to get rid off Dhoni. Like most collapses, there was the token run out too. And once again, Ali was involved. Seeing Bhuvneshwar Kumar attempt a needless second run, he quickly found Buttler and the batsman was found well short of his crease.
Chris Jordan ended India’s feeble resistance with a yorker that grazed Pankaj Singh’s foot and shattered the stumps. Immediately, the fielders set off on a Jordan hunt, chasing him around the field. When they finally caught up with him, they got into a huddle, making India’s last two batsmen wait that much longer for the customary handshake. It all resembled Southampton once again.
England, with their 2-1 lead, can’t lose this series now, giving Dhoni’s side much to think about. In July, Team India had left London believing that they had buried the ghosts of their past. But now they head back to the capital with the same old demons to deal with. At the Oval, India will be back to square one.