Tea, Day 2
Yet another session goes to England. It’s been a disciplined attack from India so far but England have weathered the early burst. It’s not a lot of runs to have after 14 overs, but going into the last session with ten wickets hand is another statement on a day that’s progressing nicely for them as they construct a comeback.
More Jimmy awesomeness
Ravindra Jadeja the batter
Here’s Shiva Jayaraman from our stats team taking a look at Jadeja’s steep improvement to become almost undroppable overseas:
“Ravindra Jadeja’s selection ahead of R Ashwin in conditions where India can’t afford two spinners in their XI has become a subject of recurring debate and has polarized fans and experts. However, India’s choice to settle for their second-best spinner in such conditions is perhaps justified and here’s why.
While batting lower down the order has obviously worked in propping up his average, runs haven’t been easy to score for him considering India’s long tail. Nearly 36% of those 1359 runs have come batting after India have been seven down. Among 52 batters who’ve scored at least 1000 runs since November 2016, no batter has made a higher percentage of runs batting with the tail. The next-best is Jason Holder, who has made 422 (28.4%) of his 1486 runs batting after West Indies have lost seven wickets. With Jadeja in the team, India not only have a more-than-decent bat at No. 7, they also have someone who manages to shepherd their long, frail tail to add some invaluable runs down the order.”
India 364 all out
Lovely comeback from England today, led from the front again by Anderson who gets yet another five-for at Lord’s. India have managed to add only 88 to their overnight score and that is a massive win for England. These aren’t overly difficult batting conditions and to roll India out under 400 is a big step towards bringing parity to this Test. The sun’s come out as well and that should ease things somewhat for their top three. Mind you, whatever the conditions, they’re going to be up against India’s best four Test fast bowlers right now. This should be juicy.
Has Sam Curran stalled as a bowler?
Here’s Andrew Miller’s on Curran’s trajectory in Tests:
He’s wicketless for the series after 37 overs of toil, while leaking his runs at nearly 3.5 an over, and notwithstanding his perpetual threat with the bat, there’s a sense that he’s been found out by this India line-up – a savvier mob than their forebears in 2018, who sized up his baby-faced offerings in that Player-of-the-Series campaign three years ago, and fell over themselves in their rush to take him apart.
There’s no disputing that he’s an astounding, precocious cricketer. He’s a risen star of the IPL already, where his bustling, ballsy bowling is matched by his clean-hitting abilities at either end of an innings, and at the age of 23, his ceiling has not yet been reached. There’s every chance, in fact, that he’ll become more like Ben Stokes as his game progresses – a top six batter who bowls in the game-changing moments. But right now, at this level, he’s been rumbled, and finding a response won’t be easy.
The contrast with his first bowling stint against India, at Edgbaston in 2018, is instructive. He claimed 4 for 74 in that innings, including the top three in eight balls in his very first spell. And sandwiched in the middle of that flurry was none other than KL Rahul, yesterday’s centurion, and the clearest barometer of how far India’s batting has evolved since that tour.
Rahul was batting at 3 in that innings, and arrived after Murali Vijay had been “caught napping”, as ESPNcricinfo’s ball-by-ball commentary put it – unaware that Curran possessed a very handy inswinger, and pinned in front of leg stump for 20. Rahul’s first ball was a fat edge for four through the slips, the second was a horrendous hack onto his own stumps, as Curran floated fuller, tempting the indiscretion. One over later, Shikhar Dhawan had scuffed an outswinger to slip. Curran’s full bag of tricks had bagged a game-changing haul.
Now, however, it’s not so simple. He’s still got the tools, but India have the read the manual. They’ve seen his repertoire, and sense that his quest for magic balls is now more likely to be his undoing. In essence, he needs a stock ball – or a more basic mantra on which to build his Test game – much as James Anderson acquired at a similar stage of his development from technical whizz to master craftsman, notably ahead of the 2010-11 Ashes, when his then-bowling coach David Saker implored him never to offer up width for the cut.
The trouble is, how does a player in such high white-ball demand find the time, or the patience, or frankly the will, to put in the hours needed to take his medium-paced game to the next level. He’s got time on his side, but the circumstances of his career are hardly designed to help him.”
Lunch, Day 2
Much better from England today, a real collective bowling effort. India’s best in this innings has come when at least one opener has been at the crease, and the dismissal of KL Rahul off the second ball of the day was a godsend. A lot was contingent on how India’s two most experienced batters remaining would go today, and with Rahul out of the way, the tails were up. They’ve generally been much better after taking the second new ball and had really worked Rahane up last evening. It only took one ball to finish that job today – surprise, surprise, it was Anderson – and barring a short burst from Rishabh Pant, they’ve bowled with serious control and also made much better use of the conditions than they did in the early parts of Day 1. Step one after a first day like that is always damage control, and they did that inside the opening ten minutes to make sure India didn’t run away with the game. They’ll be breathing a lot easier right now, particularly at the prospect of batting on what could be a lovely sunny afternoon. Things pretty even at lunch, I’d say.
What to make of India’s middle-order troubles
I’ve just had a chat with Nagraj, who is covering India on this tour, that covers some of the questions that are hanging at the moment. You’ll see by the end of the chat that there is a lot of nuance to this issue and it’s really hard to pinpoint what could happen or how India decide to move forward. We’ve also dug up some stats, courtesy Gaurav Sundararaman, to contextualise Rahane’s career so far, by juxtaposing him against the big guns who played No. 5/6 for India in the last decade. Gaurav and Sid Monga point out that it’s best to read those numbers with a mind on how Tests during Rahane’s time have largely been tilted towards bowlers. Here’s the chat…
Varun Shetty: Short batting line-up with a shaky middle-order. Did India heap too much pressure on Pujara and Rahane when they are clearly not at their best?
Nagraj Gollapudi: They were already under pressure from Trent Bridge especially Pujara who has very weak numbers in England despite his abundant county experience. The trouble for Pujara is he keeps getting unplayable balls, so that pressure swells from ball one. But you would have noticed that he has been ticked off the team management to look for runs straightaway. Remember that four off the last ball of the fourth evening where he lunged into a full delivery for a square drive.
But the trouble is Pujara looks unsettled and his balance against the fourth stump line is vulnerable as his right hip keeps opening. This morning, too, India batting coach Vikram Rathour was working hard on that point asking Pujara to flex his knees and not slide his right foot too early in his trigger movement. But, yes, Pujara’s weak numbers are adding to his woes and he has one more innings at Lord’s to prove he is worth clinging on to as No. 3.
Varun Shetty: And Rahane? Is he potentially in danger of being dropped too?
Nagraj Gollapudi: Not yet, but he is not generating any confidence in the middle order. He keeps getting the starts as he did against New Zealand in the WTC final. I think what is helping both Pujara and Rahane is Kohli’s form, which is nowhere near the impervious self he was in 2018.
Varun Shetty: Could you elaborate on that? Kohli’s pretty much on par with the other two on stats since 2020 – why do you think they’ve been given a longer rope because Kohli himself isn’t performing?
Nagraj Gollapudi: On the eve of this match the first question Kohli was asked was whether there is pressure on Pujara and Rahane. Kohli said more than individuals, it is all about “collective” contributions and whether batters are standing up to combat match situations. So, yes, Kohli cannot just press the foot on the other two, who have actually done well recently in Australia. Can I just share a lovely observation from Deep Dasgupta – who is here doing punditry for BBC Test Match Special – on Kohli?
Varun Shetty: Of course.
Nagraj Gollapudi: Did you notice Kohli was uncomfortable defending on the off stump on Thursday? Two days before the match, he asked coach Ravi Shastri to observe his trigger movement and his head position. I was uncertain as to what was happening so I asked Deep, who seems to have worked out the issue. According to Deep, it is Kohli’s front foot which is now straighter, pointing to the bowler, which is affecting his balance and the head falling sideways and his right hip and shoulder opening up in the process – something we did observe at times yesterday. Deep points out that previously, that front toe would move towards mid-off and cover. As an example, the cover drives Kohli hit on Thursday came more with the horizontal bat, Deep pointed out. So the trouble for Shastri and Rathour is the three main batters are all facing technical issues. Obviously the easiest to drop is Pujara, but then who replaces him at No. 3?
Varun Shetty: I suppose that is the next big question – India haven’t really had the opportunity to test someone else at No. 3 all these years. Vihari bats 3 in all red-ball cricket outside of the national team. Mayank Agarwal could maybe come back in and Rahul could slot in at 3 as well. But even that would involve shuffling India’s best opener on the tour so far. It will be a massive shift in team structure, wouldn’t it, to leave Pujara out? Is it then fair to say that if he does get left out, it will be the end of an era?
Nagraj Gollapudi: I suspect based on the result here, Pujara will get an extended rope, at least one more Test. Yes, Vihari has been waiting in the wings patiently and this series is a good opportunity for India to give him the exposure in the top order. Is this the end of the road for Pujara? That call is not the team management’s – that lies with the selectors. Also remember Shastri’s term is coming to a close post the T20 World Cup and this is his last series.
There’s two ways of looking at this…
Literally a matter of two wickets
As I was saying. When the team sheets were revealed yesterday, we mentioned that India were taking a gamble and that it was either a show of confidence in Pujara and Rahane, or a calculated tactic to put pressure on them by shortening the batting line-up to see if that could turn their fortunes around. We will never know, of course, but what we do know is that neither have inspired confidence this innings. Rahane survived an arduous last half an hour or so pushing at deliveries exactly like the one that has just dismissed him. No luck today, not even a little bit. Suddenly, this day could become about whether India will make it to lunch. England already look a vastly different team. Their two best bowlers have delivered already.
“Cloudy, but will start on time”
Good morning and welcome back to the Live Report. Our correspondent Nagraj Gollapudi has played weatherman and told us in no uncertain terms that play will start on time today. Take a second to applaud his courage after what yesterday gave us!
We will begin the day in overcast conditions, it appears, and that is an opportunity for England. Insert cliche about how batters have to restart every single day.
In theory, that restart might be easier for KL Rahul, who looked pristine before stumps last evening and has generally looked his old dependable self through this series so far. Don’t be surprised if he uses the same template as yesterday – resolute at the start, in wait of sunshine.
Ajinkya Rahane didn’t quite appear as assured last evening and England will look to be all over him to try and get into that Indian tail. Ollie Robinson ended day 1 strongly and will have a part to play while this ball is still new-ish. And England will hope the break will have done both Mark Wood and Sam Curran some good after they had somewhat dull returns. I’ll be honest, I had a lot more confidence in India being far ahead in this Test last night than I do right now. Because it could literally be a matter of two wickets. England aren’t as battered as it might appear….
Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo