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V.V.S. Laxman column: India let the hosts out of jail too often

Captain Kohli lacked enough support from his batsmen

Image Credit: AP
England's Sam Curran leaps as he celebrates taking the final Indian wicket of Ravichandran Ashwin as England win the 4th test match by 60 runs during play on the fourth day of the 4th cricket test match at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton, England, Sunday, September 2, 2018.
Gulf News

India did several things right in Southampton as they strived for a series-levelling win in the fourth Test, but it was England that seized the key moments.

Their 60-run win inside four days gave the hosts a winning 3-1 lead.

India have lost their second overseas series of the year, which must be disappointing for a team that has everything it takes to be successful away from home too.

As brilliantly as the bowlers have performed, they allowed England to get out of jail in both innings of the fourth Test.

England have an array of attacking talent in the lower middle-order, using those resources to recover from 86 for six on the first morning and 92 for four on the third afternoon to post 246 and 271, respectively.

This, however, is not a one-off. It happened in Birmingham when Sam Curran defied them with attractive runs, a theme that was to repeat itself at Lord’s. That’s something for the Indian think-tank to look into, because the hallmark of champion sides lies in not repeating their mistakes.

India will feel they should have done a lot better in their first innings, when the conditions were good for batting. Cheteshwar Pujara played a brilliant hand and batted exceptionally with the tail — a hitherto unrevealed facet to his batting — to take the team to a modest lead but India squandered a golden chance to bat England out of the contest.

Like in 2014 when he picked up a bucketful of wickets, Moeen Ali was again the chief destroyer for England, his off-spin accounting for nine wickets in his comeback Test. Moeen had been low on confidence after the winter tours of Australia and New Zealand. While it is commendable on his part to have capped his return with the Man of the Match award, India must introspect and analyse why they have been unable to crack the Moeen mystery.

India have been more than competitive in a majority of their five away losses in South Africa and England in 2018, but Virat and his men will find scant consolation in that. The bowling has by and large been incisive but in admittedly tricky conditions, the batting has been found wanting. Virat has been an overwhelming exception, and during his century stand with Ajinkya Rahane in the fourth innings, raised visions of a glorious victory in Southampton. But he needs consistent support, and that hasn’t always been forthcoming.