James Anderson and Stuart Broad have 977 Test wickets between them. In terms of pure numbers, they are arguably the greatest opening bowling combination in Test cricket. Their bowling styles complement each other. If they are not constantly in each other's ear on a cricketing field or the dressing room, it will in all likelihood be on a golf course. They plot dismissals together. They hunt in pairs and devise strategies in cooperation. It is difficult to say Anderson and not follow it up with Broad. They are inseparable and a nuisance to the opposition.
On Friday, it was Anderson whose deliveries kept kissing the outside edge of the Indian batsmen. On Sunday, it was Broad who kept beating the inside edge. In space of 48 hours, the pair had formulated a new strategy that left India in tatters. In the first innings, India had lasted for a mere 35.2 overs, in the second it was 47 overs.
But what was so great about Anderson and Broad was that they had managed to skittle out India with a different line of attack. The seeds had been planted in the second innings at Edgbaston, Birmingham. Anderson and Broad had discovered the Indian batsmen were extremely keen to feel bat on the ball from there out in the first dig. So the pair, along with Ben Stokes, continued to hang the ball outside the off-stump and let them feel for it. Luckily for them, there was enough movement in the pitch and through the air, to find the outside edge of the bat. Six out of the top eight were caught behind the wicket. The plan had worked.
Move forward to Lord’s and Anderson applied the same trick. The ball hooped around corners and the Indian batsmen kept waving the willow without any control. The result saw four of the top six offering gentle catches into the slip cordon.
In the second innings, however, Anderson and Broad had smartly worked out that the Indian batsmen would be desperate to shift across to the off stump and play only at deliverers that threaten their stumps. The Indian top-order was worried about balls pitching on the line of the fourth stump and moving away. In their minds, they wanted to leave and not push hard at the balls outside the line of their eye. Almost subconsciously, each batsman seemed to have decided that an outswinger or the ball shaping away would be the greatest threat.
But Anderson and Broad with all their experience were already one step ahead. Instead of looking for the outside edge, they directed their plan towards trapping the batsmen in front of the stumps. They had figured out each batsman had preconceived plans of protecting their outside edge. So, it was the change of a policy.
Murali Vijay became the first victim. He had become so conscious of the outswinger that he moved across and left a gap between bat and pad. Anderson nipped one down the slope and kissed the inner edge.
KL Rahul was the second victim. The right-hander should have even foreseen the big inswinger as on the ball just before, Joe Root had employed a leg-gully and asked his mid-wicket to come squarer. Rahul however, was so keen to move across his stumps to cover the outswing, that his head had fallen over and the front pad had obstructed his bat covering the incoming delivery. It was two from two for England and for the plan.
Cheteshwar Pujara has always been susceptible to the incoming ball. It is largely due to the fact that his top hand and his bottom hand are so wrapped around the bat handle that when he starts his downswing, the bat face is naturally slightly closed. This generally results in a slight gap between bat and pad, as he stretches forward and tries to cover the line of the inswinger. England had adopted a short-leg to him for the duration of his innings. Broad had the idea of jagging the ball down the slope in a bid to either sneak the ball through the gate or find the inside edge. It was perfectly scripted plan and it ended with Pujara's head falling over and the ball cannoning into middle stump.
Then came the prized wicket of Virat Kohli. The Indian skipper had also shifted across his stumps to cover the line of his off-stump. He had also shown the inclination of playing the moving ball on the front foot. Broad with his tail up and with the aid of the slope continued to angle one towards Kohli trying to trap him in front. The field was also set, there was a short-leg for the lunge on the front foot and there was also a leg-gully for the tuck around the corner. Broad executed it brilliantly. The ball zipped in, with Kohli on the front foot, dabbed it onto this thigh pad and the well-placed short-leg swallowed the catch.
Dinesh Karthik, the next man to perish, was a mere formality. Broad once again used his wrist to swing the ball downhill and Karthik had nothing, but his front pad to offer. A few moments later, Hardik Pandya had also perished in a similar manner. It means six out of the top eight had fallen prey to Anderson and Broad’s master plan.
India were left with no answers at Lord's. Just when they thought they could find a method of dealing with the wizardry of Anderson and Broad. The most celebrated opening bowlers in world cricket had outsmarted their opponents. England are not only 2-0 ahead in the series, but when it comes to staying ahead of the game, Broad and Anderson are also two lengths ahead of all the Indian batsmen. They are simply irresistible and commendable.