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After England piled on 569 for seven declared, India were struggling in reply at 323 for eight at stumps on Day Three of the third Test at Southampton. It was India’s poor shot selection that ensured England were firmly in control, says Shiamak Unwalla.
When one team scores well over 500 runs without getting dismissed, it can only mean that the pitch has no demons in it. When the other team loses half their side for just about 200 runs, it can only mean that their batsmen have created demons out of elves.
There is no doubt that Stuart Broad, spitting hellfire and brimstone, looked like taking out the batsmen with every over he bowled. But the rest — barring the usually consistent James Anderson — were pedestrian at best.
That India even find themselves so far behind is down to some atrocious shot selection. Shikhar Dhawan was squared up by Anderson, edging a good ball to Alastair Cook. Cheteshwar Pujara failed to drop his hands while leaving a ball from Stuart Broad. Murali Vijay left a ball too late, inside edging one from Broad back on to his stumps. Virat Kohli looked set for a big one before hanging his bat out limply to the most straightforward ball Anderson bowled all day.
And then there was Rohit Sharma. The elegant, graceful, ridiculously talented Rohit Sharma. The man who scored two centuries in a row in his first two Tests. Just as he was invoking the memories of his past glory, he reminded everyone why he is India’s greatest frustration in recent times. Stepping out to the lovable off-breaks of Moeen Ali, he tried to go inside out over mid-off, and ended up finding the fielder with the precision of a neurosurgeon.
Ajinkya Rahane, who was the only man who exuded an air of patience and calm, then did a Rohit; in only the third over after Tea, he top-edged a pull shot off a Moeen half-tracker. Ravindra Jadeja batted like a millionaire as is his wont. He was dismissed like one as well; LBW to his foe, Anderson.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar made another case for himself to bat ahead of Jadeja, hitting three boundaries off a Broad over. However, he was soon dismissed in a bit of a freak accident; an inside edge hit his pads and carried to Gary Ballance at slip. Only MS Dhoni remained, standing amongst the ruins of the Indian batting.
If India do manage to avoid a follow-on, they will consider themselves very lucky indeed. They do not deserve to. Once again, it is left to the bowlers to bail the batsmen out of trouble; a trend that is recurring with worrying regularity.
(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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