Once they lost the toss on rainy, moody, dark London day, India really didn’t stand much of a chance. It would have been a surprise had they lost fewer than five wickets. The conditions had everything that is unnatural to an Indian batsman: lots of swing, chilly wind that almost tore the skin, and some high-quality bowling. Jimmy Anderson started it and Chris Woakes finished it to shove out India for 107.
Why would you try to flick a ball to square-leg on a day like this? In the first over of the day? In London on a day like this? M Vijay probably would put it down to an old muscle memory. The ball was curving in on the middle, perhaps even middle and leg, and Vijay snapped his wrists. But so had Anderson.
“Watch out for his whip,” his old coach Mike Watkinson had said before the start. “The high bowling arm and the whip.” Both ensured the ball curved away from Vijay and made a mess of the off stump. Anderson leapt in the air, all smiles and you immediately knew this was going to be a day to brood for Indians. He would do that again very shortly, by producing a curler that took a bit of edge off KL Rahul’s bat. Two down and staring at a score less than hundred, already.
Why would you want to steal a run, when you had just almost gone off for rain and when pregnant clouds were descending on your head even as you stood at the stance. The intent was probably still fine but the stutter that followed wasn’t. Virat Kohli charges down the track whenever he thinks there is an single. It’s almost an all or nothing kind of a run. A manic dash to the other end. It’s fine but for it to work, there can be no stutter, no hesitation from his partner. In this case, it was Cheteshwar Pujara, who has now been run out for 3 times in 6 innings. He took couple of steps, hesitated and Kohli had to drag his runaway express to a halt. By that time Pujara was ready for the run; Kohli wasn’t and messy end was on cards.
Why did Kohli do a Vijay? That would leave him fuming a bit for a while, one would assume. Kohli seemed as good as anyone could be on this track; often getting beaten but hardly ever pushing out the bat. Anderson smiled as the ball whooshed past on a few occasions, and Kohli would have this lovely smile off his own. There was nothing else he could do but respect. Once when Anderson teased the edge couple of times off successive balls, he pushed in another outswinger. And Kohli smiled after letting that one go. He knew what the plan was, he knew there wasn’t going to be an inswinger and both had this lovely little moment, just a look that said it all.
And that’s why his dismissal was a bit of a dampener. He had just been dropped in the slips off Woakes but that edge was understandable. It was a cracking delivery that left him late, and he had to play at it. He did. Got an edge, saw it being fluffed and survived. The next ball was fuller and on the middle and leg- a crafty outswinger again, but you felt Kohli would have been more aware of it. You expect him to be. But he shaped to turn it to the leg side. Game over.
Why is Anderson England’s best bowler of all time? He showed it today by taking out India’s top three batsmen who could have potentially succeeded on this track: Kohli, Vijay and later Ajinkya Rahane. Now and then, Rahane would flash outside off, a catch was put down in the slips, but as his innings progressed, his game got a lot tighter. Until Anderson prised it open, with yet another one that bent away.
Why was Hardik Pandya going for big drives to huge outswingers? Probably to try his luck and get some runs on board as quickly as possible but that plan wasn’t going to work here. One went off the inside edge, a few shaved past the outside edge and when he succumbed, there was no surprise. Just as there was no surprise when the likes of Dinesh Kartik and the tail collapsed in a heap. It took 35.2 overs for India to get shot out, the thing is India could do the same to England’s iffy batting unit but they have chosen to go with a second spinner instead of Umesh Yadav. That was the first and only puzzling event of the day, everything that followed wasn’t a surprise.