After such an enthralling and brilliant first Test match at Edgbaston, I had such high hopes for the second Test, at the Home of Cricket.
After the first day’s play was a complete washout, thanks to typical London weather, (and yes, it pains me to say this, given it is my home town, but hey, it’s the truth), conditions for the rest of the match played heavily into England’s favour. Whilst that made life extra difficult for the touring Indian side, that is what Test Cricket is all about. Playing in tough conditions, and proving you have what it takes to get through it and succeed.
India proved they couldn’t.
A disastrous first innings, poor team selection meaning two spinners were played instead of the extra seamer in Umesh Yadav, meant that Hardik Pandya was left to be the third seamer. He is too inexperienced and more of a batsman who bowls a bit to be considered, right now, as a third seamer.
India’s bowlers came back strong in the 1st innings, getting half of England’s side out with a lead of just barely over 25 runs, but their lack of an extra pace bowler, and their forced reliance on spinner Kuldeep Yadav, and a less than penetrative 3rd seamer of Pandya meant that easy runs were available for England and they took the game away.
Murali Vijay bagged a pair, and left India 0-1 in both innings. With scores of 20 & 6 in the first Test, I would be very surprised if he makes the team for the 3rd Test. But Shikhar Dhawan also had a poor 1st Test, (scoring 13 & 26), so do India just chop and change back to him?
I was thoroughly impressed with Ravi Ashwin’s batting, he is no tailender and can be considered a genuine all-rounder. He was India’s top scorer in both innings, scoring 29 in the first and 33 not out in the second innings. He was battered and bruised, but he kept fighting, he displayed the type of fight and grit that was necessary from the top 3.
Jimmy Anderson had a dream Test at Lord’s. Five wickets in the first innings and four in the second, he finished with match figures of 9-43, and reached 100 Test wickets at Lord’s.
England completely outplayed India, handing them a humiliating innings and 159 run defeat to take a 2-0 in the series.
In the post match interview, Indian captain, Virat Kohli admitted to the poor selection, saying:
“Looking at things now, with the weather so unpredictable, I think we were a bit off with the combination we picked here but we have a chance to correct that for the next game”.
The conditions were in England’s favour, but credit to Kohli for not focusing on this as the reason for their loss:
“You can’t really think about [the conditions] when you’re playing the game. It is what it is and you have to counter them as and when they come to you. You can’t sit in the changing room and complain about these things. Sometimes the rub of the green goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t – you have to accept that, it’s part of the game, and when it doesn’t, a quality side will make it count. England surely did that”.
It was also impressive when he gave credit to England. I’ve said this before, but he is one captain that doesn’t look for excuses, saying:
“England played really well in whatever the conditions were at different stages. And, even when the ball is doing a bit, you still have to pitch it in the right areas. Their guys were relentless with the ball. They made us work hard for our runs and put a lot of pressure on us. As I say, the credit has to go to them”
But he didn’t let his team off the hook and made sure they knew it. Unlike other teams that might just say it was a bad day at the office, Kohli realises the blame is all on them and he’s not afraid to call his team out on it:
“Not proud of the way we’ve played. First time in the last five Tests that we’ve been outplayed. We deserved to lose this game, the way we went about things”.
Virat Kohli struggled with a strained back in the 2nd Test, but is hopeful of being fit for Saturday’s third Test, saying:
“I should be ok [for Trent Bridge]. There are five days to go till then. It’s a lower back issue which has been a problem again and again, purely because of the workload and the number of games I have played over the last few years. I’ve still got to stay on top of that, work as hard I can, and look to come back stronger after a bit of rehab and strength work.”
This Test could not have gone worse for India, and they trail 2-0, but there are still three Tests to go, and they have the chance to pick themselves up and play better.
Jasprit Bumrah should be available for the third Test, this will bolster their bowling ten-fold. Unless the pitch shows signs for wear and tear, the use of a second spinner is wasted, and Dinesh Karthik behind the stumps makes far too many errors for a Test keeper, I wouldn’t mind seeing Rishabh Pant in the next Test.
As a team though, they have a lot of work to do if they want to stay alive in this series, and first on that list is their batting. That needs to get in shape.
What is worrying for India is that they have only gotten past 250 runs on two occasions in their past 10 Test innings overseas, which includes South Africa and England. The first was in the 2nd Test against South Africa in January 2018, where Kohli made 153, and the second in the first Test against England at Edgbaston last week, where Kohli made 149.
See a pattern?
If this isn’t a cry for help that India’s batting needs work, I don’t know what is. It is about time the top order start scoring runs, and prove to the world they deserve their no.1 ranking, because right now, that no.1 ranking is a joke.
The third Test at Trent Bridge in Nottingham begins on Saturday 18th August, at 11am local time, 12pm SA time.