Mohali Test: Can England repeat 2012 and 2014 series win against India?
In 2012-13 and 2014, England won the Test series despite India taking the lead. They have done it before, but this time it'll be a lot tougher on Indian soil
Team India chief coach Anil Kumble during a net session ahead of the third Test against England in Mohali yesterday. Pic/PTI
Looking back is a good way to predict the future, for that's where you find hidden (or at times, blatant) signs of what to expect. Therefore, it won't be a bad idea for India and England to look at Rajkot and Vizag for both an inspiration and a reality check. In both games, the team that won the toss dominated the match.
By the way, in 2012 and 2014, England won the series despite India taking the lead first up. History tells us that England have done it before but this time, it'll be a helluva lot tougher than the last two occasions.
The pitch in Rajkot was a bit too flat and that's why England couldn't pull off a result. On the contrary, the pitch in Vizag deteriorated at a much faster rate, not alarmingly though, and therefore we got a result on the fifth afternoon. India's success story in the recent past is built around a simple theory — put enough runs on the board to allow R Ashwin and Co to weave their magic.
The fact that India captain Virat Kohli has lost only one toss at home has made his team's job a little easier. In addition to his luck with the toss, his form with the bat has helped the team battle tough phases. Vizag's debut Test match saw India drawing first blood in this five-Test series, but for me the highlights of the match lay somewhere else and not in the final result.
On the fourth morning of the Test, Stuart Broad bowled an inspired spell of high quality seam bowling. He was visibly in pain — limped his way back to the top of the run-up — and still put in his heart and soul in a spell that's for the keeps.
Indian conditions can be quite harsh on the faster bowlers because of lack of help from the pitch (both in terms of grass and moisture) and the hot/humid weather that drains one quickly, and that's why Broad's spell will be remembered for a long time. Using the fingers to assist the wrist is a forgotten art and Broad displayed why it should not be, for when there's no help in the air or from the pitch, you can roll your fingers slightly to get the right response.
To counter Broad's skills, India needed someone with similar pedigree. Fortunately, Kohli was, once again, in the heart of all the action. Even though he also got beaten a couple of times, he didn't let that tinker his response to the following few deliveries.
The most remarkable thing about Kohli's response was his approach, for instead of waiting in his crease, he started walking down the pitch a little, forcing Broad to shorten the length further. All Indian batsmen, apart from Kohli, stayed rooted to the crease and paid the ultimate price. Kohli was also exceptional in his astute judgment of length and making sure that his response was in accordance to both the ball and the pitch behavior.
Even though England lost the Test match, all was not lost for them. Right through the two Test matches England have shown that they have the will and the skill to fight against India in these conditions.
While England could have and actually should have batted better in the first innings of second Test, they did walk away with a lot of credit for batting the way they did in the second innings. In fact, they batted more overs in their second outing than India did in their second innings of the same game, despite batting last on a wilting pitch. One area they do need drastic improvement in is their spinners' ability to stitch together dot balls.
Mohali could aid spinners
It's believed that Mohali helps seam bowlers more than the spinners and the slightly colder weather in the north of India is also ideal for them to bowl longer spells. But it's worth revisiting the old scorecards from the recent Tests at this venue, for that will quash all such notions. Last time India played a Test at Mohali, the seam bowlers were almost rendered useless because of the dry and slow nature of the track.
In fact, the track was so helpful for the spinners from the first day itself that South Africa's best bowler turned out to be their part-time spinner Dean Elgar. While I'm anticipating a slightly better track than the one dished out for that Test (the Test lasted three days) last year, it'll still be a track tailor-made for spinners.
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