India vs England: Tenacious Virat Kohli and Co claw their way back as hosts' seamers falter in lengths early on Day 1

For India, to have England bowlers employing secondary plans after 45 overs into the first day is a credit to their techniques, mental strength & tenacity.

Gaurav Joshi, Aug 19, 2018 09:19:13 IST

It is halfway through the first day of the third Test. Joe Root has three men deployed on the leg-side boundary. Another two are waiting at midwicket and square leg. The tactics are clear, bowl short and try to bounce out the Indian batsmen. At the crease are Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane. Both are well set and with every run, the two are ensuring that Root regrets his decision to insert the visitors in on a slow Trent Bridge pitch.

To make matters worse for England and Root, the sun has started to shine and the Indian batting has forced his bowlers to resort to Plan B. Indian openers deserve all the credit, but at the same time, James Anderson and Stuart Broad had let their team down by wasting the new ball.

Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane leave the pitch for tea break during the first day of the third Test against England at Trent Bridge. AP

Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane leave the pitch during the first day of the third Test against England at Trent Bridge. AP

Perhaps it was a touch of overconfidence or simply the fact that they needed more time to figure out the right lengths. Accordingly to the pitch-maps and hawk-eye technology, in the first ten overs, only four balls had pitched six metres from the batsmen. No invitations to drive the ball with six men placed behind the wicket. Add to that only three balls had been projected to hit the stumps with the rest sailing over the top.

The lengths England bowled allowed the Indian openers to settle. The slow nature of the surface also enabled them to adjust to the seam movement. At Lord's or even Edgbaston, the new ball had hurried or gathered pace of the pitch, in Nottingham it stuck into the surface, enabling Shikar Dhawan and KL Rahul to adjust.

Dhawan is often made the scapegoat for his poor technique, but on Saturday the southpaw fought his natural instincts by playing tighter to his body and eliminating the cover drive from his artillery. It was mind over manner.

At lunchtime, the local broadcaster, Sky Sports, had displayed an image of Dhawan's contact points with the ball. From the illustration, it was clear that Dhawan was meeting the ball nearly half a meter later than usual. It also meant it was played under his eyes and slowly it allowed him to bring his back-foot play into the game. Dhawan only made 30, but in the process ensured he had taken the lacquer off the new ball.

At the conclusion of the play, batting coach Sanjay Bangar told reporters: "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 to seven days, he should get credit."

The England bowling only started to look threatening with the introduction of Chris Woakes. He was the only England seamer to bowl the length that brought the batsmen forward. On average, Woakes was arguably half-a-yard fuller than his senior teammates and was rewarded for it with three wickets.

Dhawan and Rahul may have perished before lunch but they had settled the nerves and Kohli, along with Rahane, capitalised adding 189 for the fourth wicket to wrestle the initiative back in India's favour.

While Kohli had already proved his credentials and his methods of succeeding on this tour, there was still an element of doubt over Rahane. The Indian vice-captain had been so tentative in the first four innings that from the outside it seemed like confidence had been tarnished dramatically. But like all good cricketers, he showed that with a positive intent and the right shot selection, he has the capabilities to negotiate swing bowling.

Importantly, Rahane's weight at the crease was more balanced from the outset. Importantly, he was positive from the first ball he faced. A gentle half volley early on enabled him to ease into a perfect off-drive. Then a couple of freebies on his hip allowed him to score freely during the initial phases of his innings.

As the confidence rose, he slowly discovered his back foot game. The square of the wicket shot that had eluded him in the first two Tests was executed to perfection. The back foot was going deeper in the crease, it enabled him to transfer his weight back and flay the ball that was marginal short in length. In his innings of 81, he scored 28 runs off the back-foot through the off-side. Suddenly, the balls that were mere dots in the first four innings were thrashed to the fence. The confidence had returned for Rahane and so had his shots.

According to Bangar, the confidence Rahane congregated through the innings was based on his assured footwork. "Ravi coming out and saying that he is our pillar... he is still a pillar of Indian batting. That might have done a whole lot of good for his confidence. And, yes, certain adjustments even he made, which probably he can tell you better. He looked in terrific touch."

For India, to have England bowlers employing secondary plans after 45 overs into the day is a credit to their techniques, mental strength and tenacity. England will rue the first 15 overs, but such is the nature of Test cricket and as Woakes stated after stumps, "Not every Test match can be a walkover".

Updated Date: Aug 19, 2018 09:19:13 IST

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