Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav leading a fast bowling revolution in India, writes Aakash Chopra
Bowling at 140kmph-plus has encouraged Virat Kohli to look in the direction of Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav whenever a partnership is developing, writes former India opener Aakash Chopra
India pacers Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav. Pics/Getty Images
There was a loud cheer in the crowd when Alastair Cook called it correctly in Mohali. The importance of winning the toss in India wasn't lost on the English supporters, for only once this year in Asia the team that lost the toss went on to win the match.
While winning the toss is an advantage, it's only half the job done, and England failed miserably in capitalising the advantage of batting first on a good pitch. India would've been happy with a couple of wickets in the first session but they got four.
While credit should be given to the Indian bowlers for their penetration and discipline in the opening hours of the Test, England can't escape from the fact that some of its batsmen fell to ordinary shots. Out of the four wickets that India got, only Hameed's delivery was unplayable and the rest fell to loose shots. Christmas arrived early for India!
Pacers on song
There was a time in Indian cricket when fast bowlers were used as release bowlers in home conditions. Since conditions never complimented their skills, it was only fair to expect only discipline from the faster bowlers, or so we thought. Team strategies were stitched around spinners and dishing out spin-ready pitches was a norm.
To be fair, Indian spinners almost always responded well and India remained a force at home. But the pair of Shami and Umesh are leading a revolution of sorts. It's the first time India fielded two fast (not medium pacers) bowlers and it's perhaps the first time that Indian seamers have outpaced and out-bowled their counterparts.
Both Shami and Umesh have consistently bowled over 140kmph, and that has encouraged Virat to look in their direction whenever a partnership is developing. Since Indian conditions aren't ideal for them to take five-wicket hauls, it'll be a grave injustice to judge their efforts based on the numbers in the wickets column. Their presence is allowing India to play on fair Test match pitches.
While chasing a modest first innings score India found themselves in a spot of bother after tea on the second day. The first innings deficit was still 80 runs and India had only four wickets in hand.
The thumb rule of succeeding in India is to make the first innings with the bat count, for if you failed to do that, you'd end up chasing your tail. If it's your turn to bat last, first innings becomes even more important.
That's when India's tail stitched a tale to remember. Ashwin, Jadeja and Jayant not only scored fine half centuries but also, pushed England out of the game.
On their way to taking a sizeable first-innings lead, they also created history as it was the first time in India's 505th Test match history that Nos. 7, 8 and 9 scored half centuries. Incidentally, it's happened only seven times in the history of Test cricket. I've never seen a stronger Indian lower order than this unit under Kohli.
Day Three of a Test is considered to be the moving day and mostly, whichever team wins that day, wins the game. India was 12 runs behind at the end of second day and the second new ball was only a few overs old. That's when you felt England let the game slip. While both Jadeja and Ashwin batted like accomplished batsmen, England's tactics were baffling.
They started the day with Moeen and soon adopted a defensive outside-off strategy to seamers. And if that wasn't enough, Anderson bowled only five overs despite Indian tail wagging. Nobody bowled bouncers at Jadeja and Jayant, and the utilisation of Batty was inexplicable. It felt that Cook had already thrown in the towel and was happy to play with only 10 men.
The way England fought in Rajkot and Vizag was admirable but the way they capitulated in Mohali was deplorable. For inspiration they need not to look further than the 19-year-old Hameed. He batted with a fractured finger, played for Root till he was around and then shifted gears while batting with the tail.
Things could've looked a lot different if some of the English players showed even half of Hameed's courage. India have got an unassailable lead in Mohali despite losing the toss, and that's a huge positive.
England, on the other hand, must be ruing their chances, for Cook won two out of the three tosses and they're yet to play on a rank-turner. While England should use the week between the third and the fourth Test to regroup, India just need to rejuvenate.
Aakash Chopra is a former India Test opener
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