By V.N. Prasad
Reportedly it was way back in 1936, Don Bradman’s invincibles lost the first two and went on to win a 5 Tests Ashes. The emphatic victory of Indians at Nottingham sees hopes of second such in the history when our boys head to South Hampton. I was not too wrong in the coverage of Lord’s Test when I expected a turn-around by our boys at the Trent Bridge. The opening partnerships were not great but somewhat better than the earlier two. Dhawan needs to develop ‘Big Match Temperament.’ KLR looked tense while starting off well in both the innings but failed to build on with self-assurance. Rahane’s 81 had glimpses of class. Virat’s 97 and 103 were not only sterling knocks but also ‘Match Winning’ ones. Pujara was circumspect at times and suspect a lot other times.
Fifty for no loss to 161 all out of the English 1st innings were dramatic. Pandya in the 1st innings and Bumrah in the 2nd bowled very competently. English weather poses high challenges under clouds and under the Sun. First three days were oscillating between the two conditions while the fourth day was sunny; reminiscent of Indian conditions when the partnership between ‘Brilliant’ Buttler and ‘Patient’ Stokes almost gave the feeling that they, Wolkes and Rashid were capable of drawing the test. Thanks to THAT ‘One’ indiscrete leave by Buttler and thanks to the umpire, Bumrah struck Buttler in line but was the ‘Umpire’s Call’. What if it was the other way? Well, that is cricket.
Congratulations to Jos Buttler on his brilliant maiden test hundred. It was heartening to watch him handle the achievement very gracefully — no jumps in the air and no pumping of fists. Just a broad smile and a tight hug from Stokes.
Bowling was several notches up. Boys have all learnt the hard lesson — ‘In England, pitch it up and preferably in the width of the wickets and you will find the edges or the pad.’ It was largely proved by Pandya and Bumrah. Ishanth and Sami were good too; but need to be a little more imaginative. Ashwin did not get much help from the pitch but having watched EAS. Prasanna from very close quarters, he would have used the full width of the crease, engineered a few ‘sweeps’ by Stokes to spoon a catch in Square Leg/ Deep Square Leg and induce a few ‘Cover Drives’ from stretched body of Buttler in anticipation of a ‘return catch’ or ‘an inner edge’ to forward/ backward short-leg; on a placid wicket. But for a SOLITARY flighted off-spin by Ashwin in the 73rd over of the 2nd innings, that did a EASP, he did not exhibit that ESP in getting the ball between the bat-and-pad or induce a return catch — at which EASP was an exponent. Nothing short of an off-spinner getting batsman’s left foot far across to drive, get beaten or get it on the wrong part of the bat to spoon the ball back to the bowler will cause excitement to a discerning spectator.
Catching by Indians was pretty good. KLR seems to have rooted his place in the slip cordon and Pant was convincing behind the stumps; though a slight misjudgment of his left foot moving a little too far when he dropped Buttler when he was on ONE. The one snatched from air by Virat in 3rd slip off Ollie Pope was never a ‘Lollipop’ but was brilliant.
Of the English, poor Jennings had a terrible time; not only in the slip cordon but also with the bat. He and Cook need to do something dramatic to retain their places; else something is seriously ‘Cooking’ amongst English selectors. Rashid was impressive with the cherry and the bat. All felt extremely sorry to watch Bairstow getting a nasty blow perpendicularly on the left middle finger that has resulted in a fracture. Wish him speedy recovery.
1.3 Billion wish success to our boys at South Hampton.