The Indian broadcaster ‘Star Sports’ deserves credit for introducing an exciting new feature during the first Test match of the England-India series—the swing-meter. Never before was it possible for the viewer to judge how much the ball swung in the air. Now, the moment it reaches high twenties, one can see the level of discomfort for the batmen heightening too. It’s a completely different affair that no matter what the ball did in the air, it simply didn’t do enough off the pitch. I was expecting the off-the-pitch behavior of the ball to change at Lord’s. What I wasn’t expecting was the off-the-pitch behavior of two players even before the teams reached Lord’s.
Irrespective of the outcome of that enquiry, the ‘alleged’ incident is sure to sour the relationship between the two teams and, perhaps, spur them on too.
But that’s a story for another day. The second Test at Lord’s demands focus now. England, as expected, has prepared a green-top at Lord’s, and there’s nothing wrong about their approach, for that’s what ‘home advantage’ is all about. It’s rather foolish to blame a spinner-less England for preparing a course that’s suited for their horses. Just that in the first session of the Test match it felt that their horses had forgotten to run on such a well manicured course. English summer is four Test matches old and this is the greenest pitch that we’ve seen so far and, perhaps, that’s why English bowlers didn’t pitch the ball full enough. Apart from Anderson’s peach to Dhawan, there was very little on display that troubled the Indian batsmen. In the first session only 6-7 balls pitched full enough to be driven and only 10 balls hit the stumps. As an opener I can tell you that the toughest ball to play on a green pitch is the one that’s pitched full asking to be driven. If the drive doesn’t find the outside edge, it does enough to give you a false sense of confidence to try the same shot to, perhaps, the balls that aren’t pitched full enough. That’s how you lure batsmen into playing a false shot. But that didn’t happen.
This new crop of Indian batsmen has impressed one and sundry with their ability to adapt to the demands of different formats. Murali Vijay is a T20 success but he doesn’t mind shelving his T20 instincts the moment he wears white flannel. His watchful vigil in the beginning meant that India didn’t lose more than a couple in the first session, which otherwise should’ve yielded four or five. Pujara, once again, was exceptional in his long stay and consumed as many as 117 deliveries for his 28. To survive on a pitch like this you need tight technique and a healthy slice of luck, for the difference between getting a nick and getting beaten is that four-letter word called LUCK. Kohli’s luck eluded him when Anderson bowled another peach. There’s a certain amount of similarity in the way Dhoni scores his runs and, unfortunately, there’s also an equal amount of similarity in the way he gets out on seaming pitches outside the subcontinent. Pitch it fuller, take it away and Dhoni obliges way too often for a batsman of his caliber.
England bowled different (read a lot fuller) in the second session and hence by the end of the second session England managed to get their noses reasonably ahead but I see this as India’s best chances of winning a Test match, for India’s slightly slower and predominantly swing bowlers will get more purchase from this pitch, and that’s their best chance of taking twenty wickets.
This article was first published in The Cricket Paper on 18.07.2014
This entry was posted on Saturday, August 2nd, 2014 at 10:28 am
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