Mohali Test: England cricket team will rue not cashing in on toss against India

Updated: Dec 01, 2016, 10:17 IST | Shishir Hattangadi |

Win the toss and bat first. England started the Mohali Test on the right foot, or almost right as it seemed. What they didn't do right was to capitalise on a golden opportunity

England skipper Alastair Cook
England skipper Alastair Cook

Win the toss and bat first. England started the Mohali Test on the right foot, or almost right as it seemed. What they didn’t do right was to capitalise on a golden opportunity.

On pitches that predictably assist home teams, capitalising on the toss becomes non-negotiable especially when one’s apparent strength is batting. Cook and Root are the lifeline of this England batting line up. The two can impact the game differently — the former by grinding the opposition, the latter much like a demolisher, but with a touch of romanticism in the way he bats. These two key players out when the score was 51, created the crevice that England found very hard to fill up. Batting bereavements (metaphorically speaking) of two key players who are capable of shaping the course of a Test match can be hard for a team to recuperate from in a five-day game, unless the lower order comes up with a spirited performance. That, sadly, was not to happen. The lower order did threaten to rectify the losses of Cook and Root — Stokes perishing for 29, Woakes for 25 and Butler for 43. These numbers were not healthy enough to support the resilient display by Jonny Bairstow who accumulated 89 valuable runs. Two hundred eighty three runs on the first day is not a score that a team can be proud of. The Indian bowlers, both medium pace and spin, shared the wickets with spearhead Ashwin having a reasonably sombre day with one wicket for 43. I say sombre because the Indian fan is now getting greedy with his last column! India started their innings positively despite losing Vijay for 12, walking after nicking one from Stokes. Strange that someone walked after the umpire negated the appeal. Was it the old gentleman’s game revisited? Was it the inevitability of the DRS? A debate for some other day, I may add.

Parthiv who last played Test cricket a while ago, showed very little rustiness from not playing at this level. His contribution especially through his approach has put the selectors in a dilemma. For me it’s a new term — finder keepers, loser another keeper. He got his opportunity and he didn’t harm himself. Interesting to see how the team management reacts to his contribution if Saha declares himself fit. Funny game this!

The Pujara Kohli love affair for runs continued as both accumulated 51 and 62 without much ado as Rahane looked out of depth misreading a wrong one. The need to go for a referral was as baffling as it was delusional to the naked eye. Sometimes we have to accept that the umpires do get it right as much as technology can get it wrong.

With debutant Nair run-out for four, through no fault of his, and his captain Kohli getting himself out, India looked wobbly at 204 for 6. This was when the Ashwin, Jayant Yadav and the Jadeja show took the game away from England. The three lower middle order batsmen scoring 50s in a Test match can impact the course of a game. These guys can bat and bat well at that. Stokes with a fifer and Rashid with four tried hard and in earnest but a 100 plus lead on a pitch which threatened to play naughty in the mind more than in reality was always going to play on the England batsman.

Captain Cook laboured in the second innings one referral going against the appellant India. One going in favour of England didn’t send out positive vibes of Cook being in a zone that he likes to be. His mode of dismissal to a beauty from Ashwin may have disturbed the dressing room. England were in survival mode from there on, and batting seemed a task they weren’t enjoying too much.

Joe Root is a different class as he displayed his wares on a pitch that was responsive and up and down. His tenure at the crease demonstrated that one needs to be a special player with a smart cricketing mind-set to find solutions to the problems that the Indian spinners can present to batsmen. His 78 helped erase the 134-run deficit till he fell to a sharp catch by the reliable Rahane at slip.

The fifty by young Hameed will give him a lot of confidence. The glimpses of talent and test match temperament showcased by him in the five innings needed to be supported by numbers. To get another half-century after the 75 at Rajkot will please him as well as the team management. Certainly a player to keep an eye on for his skill and of course the numbers he will have to come up with, given he has the talent.

To get just over a hundred in the fourth innings to win the Test match can get gawky if one loses early wickets. Parthiv with another spirited batting performance has again done no harm to his keeping his place in the team and creating an opening spot in an injury hit inconsistent opening position. Playing in the Ranji Trophy and waiting patiently for ones chance at the highest level can Test one’s patience. Parthiv waited and when the opportunity came his way, made it happen for himself. Successful comebacks are fairytale like in their endings. This one is nothing short of that. England has succumbed to the depth of an Indian bowling attack much as the defiant elasticity of its lower order batting.

To compete at Mumbai and Chennai they will have to bat well in the first outing. In fact they will need to play the first innings as if it were their only innings. Batting in the second innings after conceding a lead is well outside their comfort zone as we have seen in this series and it doesn’t seem that the script will change.

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