Wednesday, Oct 01, 2014

When England got their act together, India wilted under pressure

Ishant Sharma’s match-winning performance at Lord’s was the highlight of India’s 1-3 series defeat to England (Source: Reuters) Ishant Sharma’s match-winning performance at Lord’s was the highlight of India’s 1-3 series defeat to England (Source: Reuters)
Written by Harsha Bhogle | Posted: August 20, 2014 1:42 am | Updated: August 20, 2014 10:26 am

At Lord’s India produced one of their best ever performances. After Lord’s, India fell over the precipice.

In the afterglow of that win, justified at the time because hardly anyone predicts tomorrow particularly well, we failed to realise that India’s win was as much England playing badly as India playing particularly well. Most wins are like that but England set the pace thereafter, they controlled play, and India never came back. You would be justified now in saying that the Lord’s win was one bad session with the ball for England and one bad session with the bat.

Admittedly, it produced the best innings of the tour by an Indian and among the three best for the series. Ajinkya Rahane was elegant and solid as was Murali Vijay and Ravindra Jadeja’s hit and miss style of batting came off. And we were treated to the spectacle of an Indian bowler bouncing out the opposition; though a few ego filled shots helped too. When you win a game like that, it must set the pace for the future. In the remaining three Tests India won one session of play. A particularly forceful argument might result in the concession of a second session. That’s all. If this was tennis, the score would have been 3-6, 6-0, 6-0, 6-0. England raised their game and England won. Hence the awareness, in retrospect, that at Lord’s England dropped their game and India won.

Apart from Rahane, whose decline started a Test match later, Lord’s was the start of the crash of three others; Vijay, Jadeja and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Gamely as he bowled thereafter, his choice of man of the series by the opposition coach was an indicator of the absence of any other contender.

The fall was staggering. It was as if, having hit the high notes, a singer couldn’t hum a lullaby. In the fourth and the fifth Test, India were, if calculated that way, bowled out twice in a day. And, more worryingly, it could have happened in fewer overs, so frequently did the batsmen play and miss. Was it the dropped catch off Cook in Southampton then that turned the tide? Or the poor lbw verdict in favour of Ian Bell? That would be clutching at straws. Who knows where that could have taken the series, who knows if the opposition captain wouldn’t have scored another run thereafter, who knows it might have led to an upheaval in the ranks. Does anyone ever know? But if one moment can change a series, it means a team is incapable of delivering that moment again. In which case it doesn’t control the game. For the last month of the series India were doing the chasing, the following.

The pitches helped the home side. continued…

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