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Sting in the opposition’s tail has consistently hurt India, especially in the present slump

Sting in the opposition’s tail has consistently hurt India, especially in the present slump

At Lord’s in 2011, England were tottering at 107 for six when Stuart Broad (left) joined Matt Prior at the wicket to help add an unbeaten stand of 162 for the seventh wicket © Getty Images

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

The sting in the opposition’s tail has traditionally been India’s nemesis. Indian bowlers have often conceded the advantage by allowing the tail to wag merrily, thus nullifying the advantage of cheaply dismissing the top order. While this unwanted habit has haunted India for ages, it has been prominent in the last two years or so, since its dramatic slide from the summit of the Test rankings. In the ongoing Test at Chennai, Michael Clarke made the most of the support from the tail to take Australia from a precarious 153 for five to a challenge 380.

With Australia starting Day Two at 316 for seven, one would have expected India to wrap things up in a jiffy given the nature of the wicket. However, Peter Siddle held firm at one end, almost stoic in defence and aided his captain in the fight. The extra runs scored could make a huge difference on the tricky wicket, even though India find themselves in a situation of relative comfort at the time of writing. However, it does beg the question: How often does India let go the advantage with the tail batting?

Let us confine our timeline of analysis from India’s tour to the West Indies in 2012 to the present day. In this interval, there have been many instances where India had the opportunity to take the game by the scruff of the neck, only to see the advantage squandered. Here is a very important statistical detail of the said phase.

The following table contains the cumulative records of all partnerships for the seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth wickets against India since June 2011:

Partnership Runs Ave 100s 50s HS
7th Wicket 1033 34.43 2 4 162*
8th Wicket 586 21.70 0 5 82
9th Wicket 521 20.03 0 2 73
10th Wicket 281 10.80 0 0 43

 
The seventh wicket stand averages a fantastic 34.43. That is a very good number for the tail and has hurt India a lot. They have conceded two century partnerships and four 50+ stands at that number. Normally, a seventh wicket partnership would entail a bowler and one recognised batsman and the good record is somewhat understandable. However, the eighth and ninth wicket stands average over 20, which is shocking. Furthermore, the last wicket partnership averages in the double figures — a detail which shows that India haven’t been consistent in cleaning up the tail successfully.

Instances where India let slip its hold over the game:

Let us revisit instances where India’s poor bowling to the tail cost them possible chances of success.
 
England vs India, 1st Test, Lords, July 21-25, 2011

Having conceded a huge lead in the first innings, India saw a glimmer of hope when Ishant Sharma’s burst saw England tottering at 107 for six. However, Stuart Broad and Matt Prior put up an unbeaten stand of 162 for the seventh wicket to set India a target of 458 in the fourth innings. Had India wrapped things up quickly, they would have had a possible shot at a target around 300. Instead they lost the game by 196 runs.
 
England vs India, 2nd Test, Nottingham, July 29-August 1, 2011

Having endured a humiliating defeat at Lord’s, India needed to turn the tables. In a positive move, Mahendra Singh Dhoni put England in to bat on a wicket that had something for the seamers. The attack, minus Zaheer Khan, gave the impression that they were up for the challenge when they had England at 124 for eight on the first afternoon. Thereafter, Broad and Graeme Swann swung their bats to add 71 runs for the ninth wicket to take England to 221. India took the lead, but a similar scenario came back to bite them in the second essay — on a much larger magnitude. Ultimately India had to chase 478 in the fourth innings and lost the game by a huge margin 319 runs.

Australia vs India, 1st Test, Melbourne, December 26-29, 2011

In a see-saw game, where the ebb and flow of momentum was at its unpredictable best, India’s generosity cost them the match. In the first innings, the Indian seamers did well to reduce Australia to 214 for six in the first innings. However, Siddle’s cameo helped the tail take Australia to 333. Following a promising start to their innings, India folded for 282, giving Australia a 51-run lead. Nevertheless, India had a sniff with Australia at 148 for six and it looked like they could take the total by bowling the hosts out soon. Michael Hussey held firm and batted with the tail and Australia finished with 240. The last wicket partnership of James Pattinson and Ben Hilfenhaus added 43. Chasing 292 for victory, India were bundled out for 169. Had India wrapped up things quickly in both innings, things could have been very different.
 
West Indies vs India, 3rd Test, Dominica, July 6-10, 2011

In a game that is famous for India’s abandoned run-chase, they could have crossed the finish line had they been more clinical with the ball. In the second innings, India had West Indies under pressure and it was only Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Kirk Edwards who kept the hosts alive in the third innings. Once India broke their partnership, they had the chance of running through the tail and chasing a small total in the final innings. But, the West Indian tail fought hard and extended their score. At one stage they were 223 for six and Chanderpaul shepherded the tail to take them to 322. Fidel Edwards and Chanderpaul added 65 for the ninth wicket. India had to chase 180 in 47 overs, but gave it up once the mandatory overs commenced. The target would have been smaller had they outsmarted the West Indian tail.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)

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