Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 11, 2018

England vs India Second Test Day Two

Again and again and again

After the first day washout, Joe Root won the toss and elected to bowl, as clouds gathered over a greenish strip – not that anyone can say anything about a pitch until it’s used. England had gone with the expected changes from the victorious Edgbaston XI, with debutant Ollie Pope in for Dawid Malan and Chris Woakes for the indisposed Ben Stokes, whose forward defence this week is of a different kind. India also made a couple of changes, Che Pujara for Shikhar Dhawan and the “mysterious” Kuldeep Yadav for the unlucky Umesh Yadav.

It took only five balls for Murali Vijay to attempt to flick an outswinging fullish ball from James Anderson into the leg side – the result was as predictable as the shot, the off stump pinned back and India 0-1. It was as poor in execution as it was in conception – almost comically bad for so experienced a campaigner. Some may point to the excellence of the delivery as mitigation, but what does one expect in the first hour from Anderson?

The next wasn’t long coming, KL Rahul getting an Anderson delivery that he did well to nick to Bairstow, gone for 8 after a fierce examination of his appreciation of the off stump. The threatened rain arrived and brought India some much needed relief, a cloudburst sending the players off with the score 11-2 and Virat Kohli, already looking like India’s only hope, off the mark with a single.

After a 75 minutes delay, the rain relented long enough for Pujara and Kohli to concoct a run out that had to be seen to be believed, both batsmen ending up at the same end, the single never there. Ollie Pope’s first contribution to his country’s cause was to keep his head, running in from point to remove a bail when a fling at the stumps would have been expected from some (for example, an absent friend). Rubbing salt into the wound, torrential rain arrived before Ajinkya Rahane emerged the Long Room. Kohli, who had taken one, maybe two, steps too many for Pujara to turn back, had some explaining to do. With the rain heavier than ever, he had plenty of time to do so, while pondering a scoreboard that read a sorry 15-3.

The sun teased us by poking its head out from behind the clouds for long enough to prompt the umpires to set a time for a number of resumptions, but the showers, often of monsoon intensity, butted in just as the players were ready to go. The Lord’s crowd (and is there a more patient one in the world?) looked on philosophically and opened another bottle of chardonnay. Kohli surely seethed.

The miracle that is the Lord’s drainage did its job and, incredibly, play resumed in the evening sunshine, most of the crowd having sat out the long delay. England had five slips for Anderson and Kohli punched a four through extra cover to get the blood flowing and the scoreboard ticking. England had everything in their favour, a full session scheduled in which only the home side could take a real advantage.

Joe Root’s move into the slips cordon did not improve its effectiveness after its fallible Test in Birmingham, as the England captain spilled a sharp chance offered by Rahane off Broad. He was close to the wicket and the ball went quickly, but any slipper would expect to take the chance more often than not.

Anderson was giving a masterclass in swing bowling, moving it late from on or around the of stump. Kohli tried to resist, but couldn’t help himself, flashing at fresh air as the ball curved and kicked away. Broad wasn’t extracting the same response from atmosphere nor pitch, but his probings were still a handful.

But Chris Woakes, who replaced Broad, was immediately more threatening, moving the ball Andersonesquely. The slips looked as comically bad as ever when Kohli was dropped by Jos Buttler at second slip, but the very next ball, the same combination delivered, Woakes snaring Kohli for 23, India 49-4 and Buttler feeling a whole lot better. There were 16 overs left in the day and England were certainly contemplating a late evening bat.

No matter the difficulties of conditions and the quality of the bowling, the compulsive desire to work the ball from off to leg despite the swing taking it the other way was dismally ill-judged. Never mind technique, secondary school physics explains why a straight bat is needed to intercept a swinging ball – Test players shouldn’t need such basic instruction.

Incredibly, Buttler and Woakes repeated their drop-then-catch trick off consecutive balls to dismiss Hardik Pandya, the movement far too much for the all-rounder. Dinesh Karthik continued the procession, bowled off the inside edge through a yawning gap by Sam Curran. India were 62-6 and looked likely to lose their next four wickets from the next four balls.

Rahane and Ravichandran Ashwin rebuilt to the extent of taking the score to 84, when the return of Anderson induced an edge from Rahane that was taken by Alastair Cook at first slip.To be fair, Rahane’s was the first dismissal that had no element of contributory negligence, the shot defensive, the bat close the pad, the foot moving to the ball. Sometimes it really is too tough when you’re up against a man with over 500 wickets.

That said, maybe I’m too harsh or too old, but these were not 85-7 conditions. Line up the ball, watch it all the way, play it late with a straight bat with no gap between it and the pad, keep the hands soft and do not attempt to clip it to leg. Then, wait for the bad ball. It’s always easy from the boundary though, isn’t it?

Kuldeep Yadav illustrated the point by attempting to get off the mark by whipping James Anderson from middle stump to deep square leg. Really? It was, with the ball swinging, a shot he could essay 100 times and connect perhaps thrice. Mohammad Azharuddin might have had the percentages in his favour but Kuldeep is no Azhar – few are.

The two opening bowlers needed four runs to raise the three figures and the talk was that England might fancy wasting a bit of time to avoid a very nasty few minutes in the gathering gloom. Mohammed Shami had other ideas and wasn’t going to die wondering, slicing edges over the slips to breach the 100.

It couldn’t last – and it didn’t, Ishant Sharma LBW to Anderson, India 107 all out off the last ball of the day. England’s fast-medium men had bowled very well, Anderson’s 5-20 the obvious highlight, but Woakes was as impressive, his 2-19 not fully reflecting his control of line and length. Curran and Broad chipped in with one each and never let the pressure off with four balls. The catching remained inconsistent at best.

The story of the day was roughly 75% wonderful bowling and 25% dismal batting. Kohli nneds to read the Riot Act, dig out the dusty textbooks and remind his charges about the basics of batting. There’s no shame in finishing a day 27 not out off 100 balls – but who had any appetite for that?

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