Alastair Cook was given several lives by the sloppy Indian fielders on Day Two © Getty Images
England are in complete command of the fifth and final Test against India, having taken a huge lead of 237 runs in the first innings. Devarchit Varma brings the highlights of the second day’s play at The Oval.
As expected, England are running away with the final Test match. India continued to fumble, misfire and lack of inspiration and application meant they exposed themselves for a leather hunt one more time. England made merry on a pitch that assisted the batsmen, who played with purpose, and by the end of the day they extended their lead to 237 runs. Given India’s recent struggles with the bat, Alastair Cook can as well declare the innings because his side already has enough runs on the board to challenge the wobbling Indians.
The day began with England comfortably placed at 62 for no loss. However, they did stumble early on and then in the second session – which completely belonged to the visitors. But like the way it has been with the Indian team, of letting go the advantage, England once again wrestled back control and got into a position from where they can call the shots. Let’s take a look at the highlights from the day’s play:
Sam Robson in or out: The Australian-born cricketer made good waves when he was working his way up in domestic cricket. Robson was thus gifted a chance to play in the national side. But this series has been a horrendous one for him. In England, where it is the tourists who generally struggle outside the off-stump, Robson has struggled too. He failed to read an incoming delivery off Varun Aaron and got his off-stump knocked down. He has averaged an ordinary 24, and his game suggests that Robson has a lot of work do to in order to polish his technique. Whether England will persist with him or not, is something only time will tell.
Alastair Cook and Gary Ballance become monks: Few seasons back, England had mastered the art of grinding down the opposition physically and mentally. They had derived amethod of play through which they used to knock down the opposition. A small glimpse of it was seen on the second day morning as after losing Robson early, the English captain and the leading run-scorer in the series got into a different mode. They let go of everything that was outside the off-stump, frustrating the Indians. For India, since the outside off stump line didn’t work, they started attacking the wickets and also ended up spraying a few on the leg side or on the pads. This resulted in England getting many deliveries of which they could score, and they made the most of those.
Misfiring India surprises everyone: The early breakthrough in the day would certainly have given India the much-needed confidence, but the discipline shown by Cook and Ballance dashed their hopes and they couldn’t put any more fight in the first session. When play resumed after lunch, India once again looked dangerous as they sparked hopes of familiar English collapses over the past 12 months with wickets in quick succession. But then again, two new batsmen joined forces and India went into the ‘going through the motions’ stage. In the final session , after they removed Chris Woakes and Jos Buttler in quick succession, Joe Root and Chris Jordan teamed up to thwart the opposition.
India’s sloppy work in slips: India dropped several chances in the day to let go of the opportunities where they could have built some pressure. When the second session began, Cook was dropped twice and later in the day India kept spilling almost everything that came their way. Murali Vijay did well to take a low catch that got rid of Cook, but the chance that came earlier was lot easier.
Fielder at third-man not necessary: In this five-match series with two more innings left, about 800 runs have been scored in the third-man region. Still, MS Dhoni did not find it necessary to place a man over there throughout the day so that the flow of runs could be stopped. England were expected to out-bat India, and Dhoni needed to be a lot smart with his field placements. Unfortunately, anything that went past the slip cordon went for a four.
Joe Root and Moeen Ali’s contrasting form with the bat: From the outset, Root has been class apart when it comes to batting compared to Moeen Ali. They occupy crucial spots in the English batting line-up. While Root has strengthened his position by getting runs at home, Moeen has clearly struggled. The latter has not even scored a half-century in the ongoing series. Root was excellent once again for England as his knock came at a crucial time. India had caused enough damage to England that they would have had to let go of the possibility of outshining India with the bat when Root came out to bat. He did not rush for anything, batted cautiously and took England to a position from where they will dominate.
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(Devarchit Varma is a reporter with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)