Alastair Cook (left) was left frustrated by the Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami’s 10th wicket stand © Getty Images
Indian tailenders Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami added 111 runs for the last wicket to put their side from a position of trouble to a commanding one. Their partnership could prove to be the differentiating factor between the two sides in the ongoing match, but that is to be seen. Certainly, yet another stubborn lower-order stand once again highlights England’s persistent failure in Test matches to get rid of the tail, says Devarchit Varma.
Remember the Ashes 2013-14 Down Under, wherein the English side was pummelled 5-0 by a rejuvenating Australian side that had suddenly found their lost mojo? There were reasons were aplenty for the thrashing that they got, but among them was the fact that England let go every single opportunity to make Australia pay dearly for their mistakes.
It wasn’t that Australia did not err, they made them aplenty. But the fact that every single time the hosts were able to pull themselves out of trouble was the biggest factor in their win. During the five Tests, England managed to get rid of the Australian top-order cheaply, for as many as five times – especially in first innings. But never once they were able to run through the tail quickly and ended up on the losing side.
Even in the series against Sri Lanka, England toiled hard to get rid of the tail on the final day of the opening Test but could not pull off a win. In the second Test, the stubborn 149-run stand for the eighth wicket in the second essay between Angelo Mathews and Rangana Herath proved to be fatal for the hosts, which they lost as well as the series.
Resistance by lower-order batsmen is always frustrating, and when a team is made to toil for these wickets, it doesn’t look good. It wears down the side mentally and physically after having spending a long time on the field. This is where the negativity sneaks in; this is where teams lose their composure.
What Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami did was beneficial for the Indians on more than one count. The Indians have certainly taken a leaf out of Australia and Sri Lanka’s book, as their tail-end batsmen, notorious for not falling in line when it comes to the team’s cause, batted with lot of sensibility and responsibility. During the second session’s play at the Trent Bridge on the second day of the first Test, England had done well to wrestle back command with quick wickets, which included a needless run-out of opposition captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who was all set for his first Test century outside the subcontinent.
Bhuvneshwar and Shami came together at the crease when Ishant Sharma left a ball off Stuart Broad that jabbed back in, and India were tottering at 346 for nine. All that England needed was one good delivery that would have removed either Shami or Bhuvneshwar. But it took England another 229 balls to get the breakthrough. In fact, the dismissal of Bhuvneshwar off Moeen Ali was not because to good bowling, but was of the tail-end batsman making a mistake for which they are known of.
What was surprising to see that despite bowling their hearts out on a flat which was termed an Indian one on the opening day of this marathon Test series, England bowlers failed to get a breakthrough. They sent down as many as 38.1 overs, and Bhuvneshwar and Shami batted at Nottingham as if they were playing in India.
The 100-odd runs that Bhuvneshwar and Shami added has put India in a position of command, and the situation looks a lot similar for England after stumps on Day Two. Rookies Sam Robson and Gary Ballance have a monumental task ahead of them, as the cheap dismissal of Alastair Cook has added only to their woes. England certainly had a bad day on the field with India making all right moves so far in the contest.
Had England managed to get rid of Bhuvneshwar or Shami, they wouldn’t be feeling the pressure of the additional 100 runs. The records at Nottingham suggest that a team has lost only once time after scoring more than 400 runs in the first innings in past couple of years. England have a lot to ponder.
(Devarchit Varma is a reporter with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)
Catch all the stories from India’s tour of England 2014 here