Virat Kohli’s woeful run in the series continued at the the Oval © Getty Images
India went into the first day of the fifth and final Test match with the hopes of levelling the series in which they are trailing by a margin of 2-1. However, with England ending the day at 62 for no loss after bundling out India for a paltry 148, India have a lot of hard work to do in order for them to match the hosts. Devarchit Varma brings the highlights of the first day at The Oval.
Alastair Cook would have been proud in the manner in which the day panned out for England. He won the all-important toss, asked a nervy India to face the wrath of an on-song James Anderson and a dangerous-looking Stuart Broad. India obliged with couple of poor strokes and lots of nervousness, and England kept dominating them, like the way they have done since the end of the Lord’s Test. England are just 90 odd runs away from taking the lead against India, and it will be a no-brainer to say that the hosts will aim to out-bat India out of the Test match.
It was an abysmal day from India’s perspective. Comeback man Gautam Gambhir once again flopped and so did their young guns Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli. The middle-order presented no fight at all, and out of nowhere, MS Dhoni, widely regarded as someone who isn’t much of a Test batsman, knocking more than half of the runs that his side garnered. India hoped to create the magic which England bowlers did, but they could do nothing. Let’s take a look at the highlights from the first day at The Oval:
India’s appalling lack of fight: This isn’t a team that is jaded after continuous cricket. This isn’t a team that is coming off from successful campaigns across formats and is exhausted, and is mentally tired. This isn’t a side that is lacking talent. Yet, the manner in which the Indian team is capitulating with the bat every single innings since the win at Lord’s appals the Indian fans and supporters. It is one thing that their batsmen are flopping, but what is stupefying to see is the lack of fight shown by the stars in this batting line-up. If Dhoni, not a very successful batsman in Tests could really apply himself and get some runs, how come the others are failing? The average Indian fan would be absolutely right in asking this question. Well, this has been the story for India in the last three matches with their batsmen being the sole reason for their disappointing show.
James Anderson and Stuart Broad rediscover their mojo: There are not many bowling pairs in international cricket who are as talented and lethal as Anderson and Broad put together, as the two Englishmen continued to make most of the conditions at home. They created troubles for Indians persistently outside the off-stump, were disciplined and did not take the foot off the gas pedal once their side attained command. These are the signs of champions and England are showing the glimpse of their glorious past with these two doing the good work for them. Anderson was simply outstanding with his probing line and length, to which the Indians have no answer after so many Test matches.
Ajinkya Rahane’s return gifts: The khadoos Mumbai batsman is certainly one of the most developed cricketers in recent times. His century at Lord’s proved that there is no dearth of talent in the Indian cricket, but the manner in which he has been getting out since then suggests that Rahane tends to get a little carried away when presented with loose balls. That unnecessary and mistimed pull off Moeen Ali at Southampton in the first innings, that return catch to Moeen in the fourth Test at Old Trafford and the simple return catch to Chris Jordan at The Oval show that Rahane needs to put his thinking cap on and not let the bowlers get his priced scalp so easily. There was, however, a talk about Jordan not taking that catch as cleanly as he should have, but it doesn’t matter anymore. Rahane has not been able to build on the start that he attained in the earlier stages of this series.
MS Dhoni walks the talk: After the crushing defeat in the fourth Test, Dhoni called on his batsmen to ‘apply’ themselves in the middle. From the outset it might really look scary when the likes of Anderson and Broad make the ball do the talking, but with his superlative knock of 82, Dhoni walked the talk. And Dhoni showed the others who bat above him how it is done. Often criticised for his poor technique, not good enough to match his contemporaries like Cook, Michael Clarke and Hashim Amla as a batsman, Dhoni showed that he can be the best on his day. He did cop a few blows on the body – something that suggested that it was all the Indian skipper could offer to the ones directed at the body. But, he managed to stay at the wicket. Dhoni displayed that by applying oneself, all odds can be conquered as he scored a superb 82, which also included few strokes that one usually gets to see from his bat in limited-overs cricket. This was definitely one of the best overseas knocks played by Dhoni.
Different teams playing on different wickets: When India were batting, the pitch assisted swing and seam movement, and also supported bounce. Indian batsmen surrendered. But when India came onto bowl, it suddenly turned into a batsmen-friendly wicket. Sam Robson, on the verge of becoming the next casualty from the English side might as well have given himself a chance to hang onto the position for some more time. He has particularly struggled outside the off-stump. However, he had no qualms in punching a few towards the covers and even down the wicket.
Virat Kohli, where is the off-stump?: It won’t be unjust to use the phrase here: Look, how the mighty has fallen. A marauder of the bowling attacks around the world, having scored centuries in Adelaide, Johannesburg and Wellington, Kohli is cutting a sorry figure in this tour. He was dismissed while offering no stroke for the second time in this series. Certainly, Kohli is not as confident as he has been over the last two years.. The Indian batting star is struggling, which is not helping the team’s cause. Indians can only hope that this wretched form of his doesn’t last too long.
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(Devarchit Varma is a reporter with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)