On a day when patience was the need of the hour, in challenging conditions, the Indian batsmen lacked application and crumbled to their third lowest total in England.
It's 3.34 pm Indian Standard Time. The first signs have already arrived four minutes into start of play in the 3rd Test at Headingley. Five balls into Day 1, KL Rahul goes for that expansive drive outside off, off James Anderson. Edges it to the keeper. It comes as a surprise. It is uncharacteristic of Rahul in the context of this series. He's batted really well in this Test series and more importantly, he's left brilliantly. He's been an epitome of patience, along with his opening partner Rohit Sharma. And to go for that shot, off just the fifth ball of the day is really surprising. It was on the 5th-6th stump outside off, Anderson angled it in and then seamed it away. Rahul fell for it.
It was a poor shot. And it was the story for India right through their short innings which saw them crumble to their third-lowest total ever (78) in England. On a day when patience was the need of the hour, Indian batsmen lacked application. Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane's partnership in the second innings of the Lord's Test had emphasised the importance of restraint and resolve in tough situations. However, it all went a bit awry at Headingley.
Kohli opted to bat at a venue where the team batting first had lost the last three Tests. Root didn't mind losing the toss and bowling with a cloud cover and on a tacky wicket. He thought the pitch will get better for batting as the Test progresses.
It was seaming and swinging straightaway. James Anderson was mixing those inswingers and outswingers well. This was a slightly different Anderson. Bowling more inswingers as compared to the past and then planting seeds of doubt in the minds of the batsmen. A more lethal Anderson.
It's 3.52 pm. 18 minutes since Rahul's departure. Anderson seams the first ball of his third over away from outside off, about the 4th stump line. Pujara hangs his bat out and edges it to the keeper. In his previous over, Anderson had prominently bowled inswingers to Pujara. His mind was muddled. He might have been expecting another inswinger but it was angled in and left him. He felt for it and edged it. Pujara has looked tentative at the crease right throughout the series. Even in that second innings partnership with Rahane, he wasn't fully in control. Given his form, he should have left it alone. Those outside the off stump pushes and pokes have been bringing about his downfall.
India are 4/2 inside five overs.
1.2° of seam movement as well - the most of either team in the first five overs of an innings in the series.
— The CricViz Analyst (@cricvizanalyst) August 25, 2021
In walks Kohli. It's Anderson vs Kohli straightaway. Anderson bowls a probing five deliveries to him. All in that corridor of uncertainty. Mostly outswingers. He's dangling the carrot. Those 'outside the off stump' problems have resurfaced from 2014 for Kohli. In all the three innings prior to this, he's got out in a similar manner, edging it to the slips or the keeper. Kohli leaves those five Anderson deliveries alone. In the next Anderson over, he finds the confidence to drive one, doesn't time it perfectly and gets three. He doesn't face Anderson for the rest of the over. The battle again resumes in Anderson's next. The England pacer this time concentrates on bowling on the stumps, strays in line a bit with a couple of deliveries on the pads and down the leg side. Those are length or good length deliveries. It's 4.23 pm IST. And Anderson dangles that carrot again. It's a straight delivery, full and angling in. That 'wobbly seamer'. It sucks Kohli into that drive. The one he should not go for. But inevitably he ends up going for. The ball just straightens at tad and Anderson sets off in celebration as Buttler gobbles up the nick. It's around the fifth-sixth stump line and despite his recent struggles, Kohli still goes for it.
In the 2014 tour, he was getting out to balls closer to the stumps but here in 2021, he's been falling to deliveries in the 5th-6th stump lines. "That is the greatness of the bowler (Anderson), he is drawing you into it," Gavaskar said in the lunch break show on Sony Liv. "He should be doing what Sachin (Tendulkar) did at Sydney (2004), and say to himself 'I am not going to play the cover drive'. I am only going to play the straight drive or through the on side but also make sure I don't play too much across the line. Maybe give a quick call to SRT and ask him what do you think I should do?" India 21/3. Anderson's figures read like game set and match figures. 6-3-6-3. It's still isn't game set and match but he's set it up nicely. The first three dismissals read KL Rahul ct Buttler b Anderson, C Pujara ct Buttler b Anderson, V Kohli ct Buttler b Anderson.
All through this, Rohit is showing immense restraint. He is 4 off 37 balls. Rahane joins him and the pair look to steady the ship. There is that odd four and an edge as well which falls short of first slip. But Rahane's largely looked solid in his defence. It's 5.30 pm. An hour and seven minutes since they lost Kohli. It seems long. Yes, long with all that has happened inside the first hour. Rohit and Rahane have battled well. There are just two balls to go for lunch. Robinson bowls the penultimate one the length outside off. Rahane looks to defend one tentatively outside off with minimal foot movement. It nips away a touch and Rahane ends up getting a feather to the keeper. It's that fifth stump line ball. Rahane could and should have left it alone with lunch on the horizon. It's that 'outside off stump' that has been a problem area for him as well in the series. He walks back disappointed knowing that he had committed a mistake.
It's 6.25 pm. Just 15 minutes after lunch. Another Indian batsman fiddles with one outside the off stump. Rishabh Pant looks to cut a slightly short of a good length delivery on probably the sixth stump outside off, from Robinson. It nips away after landing. He gets an outside edge and Buttler takes his fifth catch. The lack of feet movement is glaring and seems like those mistakes from Lord's dismissals haven't been learned from.
Jadeja is in. Rohit is still in there. Amid all the madness, we've all forgotten about that. This is sort of the last recognised pair at the crease. India have a long tail. They need to build...brick by brick. They start off doing that. It's 6.55 pm. Rohit has reached on 19 off 103 balls. It seems like he's gone too much into his shell. There is a need to add runs on the board. He receives a full toss from Craig Overton. Goes for a flick but is late onto it and gets a leading edge along the ground to the off side. England haven't bowled too much short at Rohit, the delivery that has suckered Rohit three times in the series. Now Overton goes for one. It's a touch outside off, Rohit is caught in two minds, whether to go for the hook or not. Maybe the past has influenced him. It also seems like he is looking to keep it down. But in the end, he ends up playing a half-hearted pull and spoons it straight to short mid-on. All the hard work comes to almost nothing.
It's a procession from then on. 07.01 pm: Shami departs for a golden duck, off the next ball from Overton. Looks to play a short of a good length delivery outside off, gets squared up as it straightens and edges it to the slip cordon. 07.07 pm: Jadeja walks back as he completely misses an away swinging very full delivery on middle stump from Curran. LBW right in front 07.09 pm: The last match hero Jasprit Bumrah too looks to play across the line off an inswinging good length delivery on middle, from Curran, and departs LBW for a golden duck. The last pair of Ishant and Siraj swing, survive, swing and finally at 7.26 pm perish as Siraj backs away in the typical tailender fashion and steers a good length delivery way outside the leg stump to a leaping Root at first slip. The dismissal sums up the Indian innings. Boom. 78 all out. Blown away in three hours and 52 minutes. From the high of Lord's, India's fortunes had swung like an empty trash can in a hurricane.
In challenging conditions, there was a need for better application. Patience and perseverance. Just like the discipline they displayed on Day 1 at Lord's. The pitch had moisture and there was pace and bounce in the surface. The first few hours needed to be given to the bowlers. It was a matter of few hours. The sun could have been out, the clouds could have disappeared, the pitch would have dried a bit. All of those happened progressively when England batted.
There's nothing to take away from the English bowlers. They swung, seamed, bowled tighter with discipline, created pressure and forced the Indians into playing false shots. And that's why the Indian batsmen should have shown more restraint and not gotten sucked into those drives, pushes and pokes.
"The wicket was softer in the morning and they bowled in good areas," Rishabh Pant said after the first day's play. "We could have applied much better. But you learn from your it and move on, that's the only thing you can do as a cricketer, you learn from your mistake and improve in the next innings."
Haseeb Hamid and Rory Burns showed how to bat on the surface. And they could bat freely as the day progressed because the pitch and conditions had eased.
England are 120/0, already leading by 42 runs. They are firmly in the driver's seat. The Indian bowlers will need to channel their 2nd innings Lord's intensity and aggression and go all out. Yes, they are firmly on the back foot but a little peep into the past might show them the scorecard of the last time England played at Headingley. From 67 all out to winning the Test, England had pulled off a coup against Australia two years ago.
India need to do something that has brought them success overseas in the last few years.
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