Southampton, July 29 :
India have an onerous twin task of having to compile runs and consume time to save the 3rd Test match to maintain their 1-0 lead in the five-Test series.
England’s first innings total of 569 for seven has squzzed India into a tight corner. And India need to avoid batting more than two sessions in their second innings.
The pitch on a gloriously sunny middle day of the middle Test match in the series was perfect for batting. The Indian top order batting line-up, though, succumbed to scoreboard pressure to leave the issue still quite precariously placed.
For India’s batsmen, it was an examination of character and calibre. While neither the current 3rd Test nor the series is lost, in hindsight it could transpire to be the day that decided the series psychologically.
India’s troubles in the match began with dropped catches on the first two days – not to mention their counter productive stance against the umpire decision review system (DRS) – and compounded with the more experienced English quicker bowlers utilising the conditions in The Rose Bowl’s leafy environment better their Indian counterparts.
To start with, the ball was still quite new and James Anderson and Stuart Broad patiently pegged away on or around the off-stump, making the odd ball swing. This fetched rewards.
Cheteshwar Pujara was caught behind in the morning and Virat Kohli snapped up at first slip after lunch. In between, Murali Vijay, India’s leading run-getter in the series, played on trying a leave a delivery. The Indian top order, in other words, failed to step up to the plate.
For Kohli, it was a fifth poor score in as many innings in this series. His performances in Australia, South Africa and New Zealand mark him out to be a special talent. But he does need to speedily remedy his catalogue of failures in England to dispel doubters about his ability to play swing bowling.
Over the years, Mumbai batsmen have made the most meritorius contribution to India’s batting. After Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement last November, though, the question was: after him who? This appears to have been promptly answered.
As at Lord’s, Ajinkya Rahane came to the rescue with a technically and temperamentally accomplished exhibition.
In contrast, his Mumbai team mate Rohit Sharma, having covered the hard yards, paid the penalty of underestimating Moeen Ali’s off-spin – driving against the spin to be caught at deep mid-off.
Sharma has, of course, been bereft of match practice for nearly four weeks. The same problem would arise if Gautam Gambhir replaces the out-of-form Shikhar Dhawan in a schedule of five back-to-back tests in 42 days.