Questions, questions... England came back strongly in the third Test match beating India by innings and 76 runs and squaring the series one all.
Going into this match, it was England who needed to sort out their batting with only Joe Root looking in form and the rest of their batters — barring a fifty from Jonny Bairstow — looked all at sea against the Indian seamers and were bowled out in less than 60 overs in the second Test match at Lord’s to give India the lead in the five-match series.
All the pressure was on England and the great Sunny Gavaskar predicted India would win this series 3-0 or even 4-0, but the way England bounced back at Leeds has turned the tide so much that it looks like a repeat of the 2014 series where after the first Test was drawn, India went on to win at Lord’s but then lost the last three Tests to lose the series 3-1.
Even in 2018, India were again favourites going in to the England series but lost 4-1. Everyone said that India did not seize the vital moments that time around and that is why they lost - but to me the scoreline said something else.
Back to the current series, England did not have the services of Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer and Chris Woakes, and their batting on paper looked weak barring skipper Root, whereas India had almost everyone available except for Shubman Gill. His place was grabbed with both hands by KL Rahul, who is India’s best performer 252 runs.
India were in England from June 2 and everything looked in the right place. They played the World Test Championship final and were acclimatised to the English conditions and were — once again — regarded as favourites going in to the England series. They dominated the first Test and should have won, had it not been for the English weather at Trent Bridge. They proved in the second Test that they had the firepower and went on to win the Lord’s Test in the last hour of the fifth day.
All looked rosy for India going in to the third Test, but the only thing that went their way was the toss. They were bowled out for a terrible 78 runs in the first innings and then the England batsmen hammered 432 - with their top four all getting fifties and an on-fire Root scoring his third consecutive century to take his tally in the series to 507 runs. No one for India is even close to half that. The total of the top seven Indian batsmen for the series is 1,083 runs in three Tests, with Rahul the only centurion so far. That alone shows how the Indian batters are still finding it difficult to adjust in the tough English conditions.
All the pundits said that India misread the Leeds pitch and paid the price, but England racked up 432 runs on the same crease where India first lost all their 10 batters for just 78 runs and then the last eight for only 63 runs the second time around. This showed a gulf as the English bowlers fired and the India batsmen could not cope in conditions.
Virat Kohli after the loss said that if six batters can’t do the job then there is no guarantee that seventh extra batsman will bail you out and I totally agree to what the skipper says. But the question an answer is this: are your six batters good enough in English conditions? Barring Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul, they all seem to struggle.
Even in the bowling, Ishant Sharma looks a pale shadow of himself and Ravindra Jadeja looks more like a bowler to who has been kept in the side to give rest to the fast bowlers. He has bowled 77 overs in three Test matches and picked up just two wickets for an average of 93, which shows that the balance of the team is simply not right.
If skipper Kohli insists that the template has been set for the series of playing four fast bowlers and one all-rounder, why can’t that all-rounder be Ravichandran Ashwin, who has five Test centuries as compared to one by Ravindra Jadeja?
This India side has definitely has shown from the Australia series that they can bounce back, and their captain did say that they love such situations and they will come back with a lot of determination and intensity. But can they prove it in English conditions against a team which has been led from the front by captain Root and their main strike bowler James Anderson? Only time will tell ...