“With runs and a firm platform behind them, the job was arguably easier. But it still needed to be done. The clouds stayed away and England bowlers struggled to maintain their channels with the batsmen appearing more positive”
Focus, discipline and compactness – three telling factors in India’s big day of joy at Trent Bridge where they mastered the conditions, played out of their skins and managed to take home 307 runs at the loss of six wickets.
Unusually bold and technically more sound, India, sans the cloud cover, looked like the team that they were meant to be here in England before the start of the series. If Edgbaston and Lord’s were an eye-opener to Indian batsmen’s shoddy overseas technique, Trent Bridge day one confirmed that they were quick learners.
Right from Shikhar Dhawan and Lokesh Rahul to Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya, they showed better technique, played with soft hands, rotated the strike constantly and never got bogged down by the situation. Perhaps this led to a rush of blood from Cheteshwar Pujara, the most unconvincing of the day, who pulled one down the throat or deep square-leg.
Make no mistake, this wasn’t a brown sub-continental flat surface. It was green, there was swing and seam, though not extravagantly, and Anderson and Broad were constantly bowling at the right places. India, though, were bold. They weren’t sucked into the never ending chain of seeing out the tough period without making runs and then getting dismissed.
The openers virtually set the tone. Dhawan and Rahul were immaculate against England’s new ball bowlers. Lack of early wickets brought Stokes into the attack earlier and the Indian batsmen cashed in. Dhawan played late, soft and thrashed when the ball was in his zone.
“The way Shikhar made the changes to his batting, the way he reduced his bat speed, the way he played the ball later, these adjustments he made in the last six or seven days, he should get credit. KL Rahul, too, was playing on the back foot, he was reacting after the ball’s movement. These changes the batsmen have made make me hopeful for the rest of the series. With five more innings left, if our batsmen can play in the same way, their performance graph will carry on to improve,” Sanjay Bangar, India’s batting coach, said as revealed by ESPNCricinfo.
So far today, Shikhar Dhawan is striking the ball 30cm later than he was at Edgbaston. A conscious effort to play later may be what he needs to get some success on English shores. #ENGvIND pic.twitter.com/y2q9DcLk6l
— The Cricket Prof. (@CricProf) August 18, 2018
Rahul did the same and for one India’s openers saved their no.3 from a brand new cherry. Pujara, though, could not capitalise. Stuck in a see-sawing mindset, the Saurashtra batsman appears a shadow of his confident self back home and perhaps the time has come to infuse fresh blood here, accepting that he just doesn’t seem to be tailor-made for these surfaces.
Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane then strung together the partnership that India so sorely lacked in the first two Tests. Rahane seemed to have found his mojo on a surface that didn’t aid too much seam or swing. England bowlers were shorter than usual except for Chris Woakes who meddled with India’s day courtesy a fuller length and late movement.
Even with the mini-collapse, India seemed to be better equipped to counter the English seamers. The skipper and the vice-captain donned the role of firefighters, switching between attack and defence effortlessly. England kept bowling at the stumps to Kohli hoping to get some kind of late movement to expose his recent chink of missing balls coming into him. It never materialized with the skipper in tremendous form. With Rahane flowing at the other end, Kohli grew in confidence.
Virat Kohli is scoring all around the field. He's scored 50% of his runs through the off-side, 50% on the leg-side; he's scored 46% in front of square, 54% behind. #ENGvIND pic.twitter.com/AJkehtsXNf
— The Cricket Prof. (@CricProf) August 18, 2018
If Kohli was overpowering, Rahane finally looked like the overseas batsman he was four years ago. He left those tricky sucker balls outside the off-stump, refrained from going with hard hands and used the quick outfield to his advantage. There was a clear commitment to remaining positive and it paid off in the 159 run partnership. Rahane would be distraught with his dismissal but as Bangar later said, he was getting into really good positions right through the innings and it could well be a turnaround innings for the vice-captain.
“His mindset was very clear,” Bangar said of Rahane. “He was very positive, his feet were moving well. He was getting into good positions…at times there can be a lapse in concentration which can lead to losing your wicket, which had happened in the previous Test. But he seemed to be in good nick and he capitalised, put us in a good position and he would be hurting because a big score was on the cards.”
Kohli’s untoward dismissal as he closed in on a hundred – edging Rashid to the cordon – was perhaps another in the list of his fallacies of breathing easy after the strike bowlers were off the attack. His dismissal, though, paved way for the exciting Rishabh Pant who smashed his second ball in Test cricket over the bowler’s head for six.
Hardik Pandya was more compact than ever until he edged a peach from Anderson late in the day. He left 19 deliveries, the most he has done in a Test innings so far. Pant and Pandya, both known for their counter-attacking way of batting showcased everything that was changed in India’s batting. They left well, played with really soft hands and made the bowlers work hard even with the second new ball.
With runs and a firm platform behind them, the job was arguably easier. But it still needed to be done. The clouds stayed away and England bowlers struggled to maintain their channels with the batsmen appearing more positive. Anderson found just 9.3% false shots according to CricViz tweet and it speaks a tale in itself. Batting was easier but the runs weren’t there for free. India have stuck around and managed to rack up a decent day one total. It is up to them to make it count and grab a win when the sun is bright.