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India tour of England, 5th Test at The Oval: Batting woes continue to haunt visitors

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Cheteshwar Pujara was yet again guilty of not having his eyes on the ball on Day 1 at The Oval © Getty Images

India crashed to 148 all out on Day One of the fifth Test against England at The Oval, thereby continuing their dreadful streak of cheap totals. Shiamak Unwalla looks at how the Indian batting followed the same pattern of their last few innings.

Harsha Bhogle said on commentary during the live telecast of the fifth Test at The Oval that when a batsman is out of form, they would ideally like to come in to bat at, say, 200 for two. In his last four innings, Virat Kohli has come in to bat at 29 for two, eight for two, fifty three for two, and ten for two.

India have now been bowled out for less than 200 in four successive innings. Fortunes have nosedived quite spectacularly for a young side that promised so much in South Africa and New Zealand — even though they lost the series in both the tours. Those encouraging displays in their two previous overseas tours continued in the first two Tests of the ongoing tour.

India’s innings at The Oval was straight out of the script India had followed in their last few innings. The openers start nervously. Shikhar Dhawan has failed to occupy the crease on the tour and now Gautam Gambhir is following suit. Cheteshwar Pujara failed to keep his eyes on the ball and was dismissed with hardly a run to his name. Kohli walked out, being under tremendous pressure after a string of poor scores, plays a gorgeous shot that makes the viewers’ hearts soar, and then made those same hearts come crashing down to the abyss. India’s batting talisman yet again found himself walking back to the pavilion in despair due to a poor shot judgement on his part.

At this point the script differed, but only slightly. Murali Vijay, who had got himself set, was soon out caught at slip and Ajinkya Rahane ended up playing one back to the bowler. Again, it was up to MS Dhoni to wage a lone battle.  He got no support from the No 7 batsman, who doubles up as an all-rounder. In yet another case of deja vu from Old Trafford, Dhoni had a partnership of sorts with the tail. And again he was dismissed going for his shots in a bid to help pull India back from the brink.

This script can be applied to any of India’s last four innings with minor changes here and there. India managed to survive getting stuck at eight for four in the pervious encounter. This time they were 28 for four. Instead of Ravichandran Ashwin proving an able ally for Dhoni, it was Ishant Sharma. And instead of James Anderson and Stuart Broad, the major wreckers this time around were Chris Jordan and Chris Woakes.

India have managed to revisit their 2011 horror show. If this trend continues, Indian cricket is likely to slip back into its dark ages of being kings at home and paupers abroad. If things go according to script, the match is likely to get over by the third day and England will have their second consecutive innings victory.

Catch all the coverage of India’s tour to England here

(Shiamak Unwalla is a reporter with Cricket Country. He is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and Cricket fanatic who likes to pass his free time by reading books, watching TV shows, and eating food. Sometimes all at the same time. You can follow him on twitter at @ShiamakUnwalla)

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