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Lord’s Test and Its 5 Decisive Factors

July 22, 2014

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Finally the streak of not winning tests overseas that started 3 years ago for team India has ended with a victory at Lord’s after 28 years. The poor run started when India toured England last time. Since then they went to Australia to only find a whitewash similar to England tour. Even the tours to South Africa and New Zealand could only bring disappointment for them. England meanwhile had made the memories for India even bitterer snatching a rare test series victory at the Indian soil. India heading to England this time with a mindset of revenge could not have asked for any weaker English team in terms of their confidence, form, performance and current cricketing circumstances. India capitalized well, looked an improved team in the first test. In spite of losing a very important toss they were the better team from the first day of the second test, and rightly they now have the lead in this five match Investec Test Series. 5 factors as I see have separated the two teams in this crucial 5 day encounter.

Indian Batting: Whenever team India have tasted victory in the tests played abroad, bowling simply has not been the stand alone factor. The lack of turning assistance offered from the pitch has always put an additional responsibility on the shoulders of the batsmen. The things could never have been the same for the visitors and the match could easily have been lost in the first session of the first day. On a lush green surface having a massive assistance for the English AP7_17_2014_000240Aseamers Vijay and Pujara were equal to the task. Although both of them had their starts and neither could go on to score big, yet their contribution took a big part in writing the script for the rest of the match. The platform they provided seeing off the new ball helped Ajinkya Rahane to build his innings. Just when it looked like England bowlers had started to make up for their early mistake, Rahane came out with a super cool mind under the circumstances and his partnership with Bhuvneshwar Kumar tightened the grip of India into the match. It’s a dream for any cricketer in the world to put his name on the Honours Board of Lord’s beside the greats of the game. Rahane did that in emphatic fashion by scoring a first innings ton. Vijay, in spite of missing the opportunity to do the same for just 5 runs in the second innings made sure that he starts to turn the complexion of the game. Later on the innings Jadeja and once again Bhuvneshwar with their bat made sure that they put their team in the driver’s seat.

English Bowling: England had been asking for the green pitches at Lords for quite some time. But when they finally had it and having also won what was supposed to be a very decisive toss; they certainly had not been able to exploit the conditions. On a pitch that was almost indistinguishable from the other parts of the field on day one England kept bowling short. Indian batsmen on the other hand gladly kept leaving everything outside the off stump. As a bowler whenever you are not able to make a batsman play you simply can’t get him out. At the same time by doing this England bowlers provided chances to the Indian batsmen so that they get England-bowler-Ben-Stokes-reacts-during-day-one-of-2nd-Investec-Test-match-between-England-and-India-at-Lords-Cricket-Groundfamiliar with the bounce, seam and movement of the pitch. Bowling short did not give them the opportunity to have leg before decisions in their favor either. And to add on with this, in order to use the conditions for swing to a good effect bowlers must have pitched the ball up so that it can travel an extra bit of time in the air before pitching. By bowling at this area they could have invited the batsmen into the drive expecting the ball to swing and take the outside edge of the bat. But neither of the England bowlers during the most important bowling session of the match could bowl in the driving length. Later on the day as the moisture of the pitch disappeared batting became easier for India.

England captain getting almost everything wrong: Performance of Captain Cook has certainly been under the question mark since England toured Australia for the latest edition of the Ashes. England are indeed in search of a quality captain who can take the responsibility. Not sure whether they have failed to find any or they are just playing the waiting game. It is quite evident that Alastair Cook’s place in the team was meant to be allotted to someone else way before had he not been the skipper. He is probably having one of the toughest times of his career with the bat as well as with captaincy. He has been caught in the corridor of uncertainty as many times as alastair_cook_pa2possible ever since the last Ashes. There have been a lot of talks against his feet movement and the way he is getting out against the delivers just outside the off stump where he is caught in two minds – whether to play or leave. Even after facing around 90 balls in the second innings he was still not sure. In the process all he managed to do is to play away from his body only to find an edge. His poor form in his batting is clearly reflecting in his captaincy now. He has made some strange decisions while making field placements. It is almost as if he was ever decisive not to put a fielder in the third man area irrespective of how many runs are scored there. Instead often he had men in the no man’s land neither stopping a boundary nor a single. When it mattered to wrap up the Indian tail he tried too many things, opened up his field unnecessarily and the runs scored by tail is ever going to hurt the bowling team.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s all-round performance: Bhuvneshwar has really been a revolution since the last IPL. Though his team remained at the lower half of the table Kumar’s performance often had the experts to the edge of their seats. He was very handy when India toured England last year for the ICC Champions Trophy, but undoubtedly this is the time when he is playing the most significant role for his country. He has used the English conditions for bowling wonderfully well, already bagging 2 five wicket hauls and putting his name in the Honours Board in his first Bhuvneshwar-Kumar_AP-1ever Lord’s appearance. All on a sudden he is looking a different bowler who has the control both over the new and old balls. He has learnt the art of swinging the new ball the other way than its natural swing as well, an art that takes years to practice to master. But that is not all. He has impressed with his batting ability more than anything else and scored crucial runs while many of the frontline players struggled to make their mark. India for years have looked for bowlers who can do a fairly bit of job with the bat. Whether they have finally found one here or not is too early to predict, but the player who scores 3 fifties and a thirty plus in tough abroad conditions really requires a lot of ability. The runs he added with Rahane in the first innings were absolute gold-dust from the perspective of the game having said that if you take away his half century in the second innings you can see how close the things could have been.

England’s second innings collapse: Clearly India seemed to have come up with a plan against the English batsmen. One of the reasons why England were whitewashed in Australia last time is the deficiency against the short balls. Johnson had the pace and the bounce in the wickets to trouble his opponents there, but the English conditions are different. Neither the English pitches offer that much of bounce nor the Indian bowlers have the pace anywhere near to what Johnson bowls at. Obviously the ploy was supposed not to work out in this series and we could also find evidences in favor of this from the last Ashes held in England. A similar Aussie team was unable 2014-07-21T125100Z_1596131583_GM1EA7L1LR001_RTRMADP_3_CRICKET-INDIAto put England in any sort of trouble with this plan. But here the way England played according to the Indian bowling plans was terribly incredible. Among the 6 wickets that fell on the final day the last one was run out. Jadeja showed Anderson the way to pavilion to make a poetic justice for the incidents that were in the headlines before this match. But the rest of the 5 wickets were all resulted from short balls, and in each of those cases the fielders had the ball right into their throats, they did not have to move at all. Even the set batsmen like Joe Root found the fielder’s hand to perfection, and if players throw the wickets away by playing such stupid shots none can save their team. Surely this is going to have a big effect on the strategies of team India for the upcoming matches. Before the match there was a lot of discussion on the inclusion of Prior and Stokes. England team management had the faith on Prior on account of his experience. But if the experienced players of team get out playing such ridiculous shots in both innings then it is not only bad for the player’s reputation, but also it ruins the confidence of the rest of the team. Stokes on the other hand is yet to open his account with the bat having bagged a hat-trick of ducks while the players like Jordon and Butler still have to wait for their chances.

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One Comment
  1. supriya permalink

    nicely written.\m/

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