For the second day running, India made early inroads into the England line-up but failed to sustain the pressure. England wriggled out of a spot of bother to post a very impressive 477, a total from which they could dictate the outcome of the match, provided the home team batsmen oblige.
Of particular worry to the Indian team would be the niggling injuries suffered by their opening batsmen, Murali Vijay and KL Rahul. Vijay, who fell while trying to dive and stop a stroke, injured his shoulder. While it might not be grave, it was enough for Vijay, one of the main stays of the previous Test, to skip opening the innings in a stiff chase.
Another injury scare was when Rahul, attempting to clobber a delivery from Stuart Broad, seemed to have strained his leg muscle. It caused him to hobble around but hopefully will not turn out to be a recurrence of an old thigh injury.
The Indian squad already besieged with so many injuries which necessitated changes in the playing eleven in earlier Tests, need both Vijay and Rahul to be at their best if they are to thwart England’s designs.
The pitch, at least till now, has not really looked spiteful and that is the main reason that a total of 537 runs, at the expense of 10 wickets, have flowed over the two days.
Having said that, India’s bowlers’ inability to turn on the screws while on top was disappointing.
They grabbed three quick wickets, including that of Friday’s batting hero Moeen Ali at the expense of just 37 runs. Moeen was peppered with short-pitch bowling before he succumbed. This was a tactic that the Indian team did not try out on Day 1 or in earlier Tests. Probably a few phone calls to other professionals during the evening would have helped them zero in on his weakness.
But just when it looked like curtains for the visitors, India’s bowlers struggled against England's tail-enders — debutant left arm spinner Liam Dawson and leg-spinner Adil Rashid.
The pacemen simply did not bowl enough testing deliveries to the duo. Of course, Umesh Yadav is as pacy as any bowler in international circuit while Ishant Sharma has been around for a really long time and is capable of bowling at a sharp pace. Yet, neither struck the right length and line which would have kept a couple of tail-enders in check.
Normally, pacemen are expected to clean up the tail. The tail-enders would do well in the company of an accomplished batsman. They would be expected to play a supporting role to the recognised batsman and stitch together a partnership. They are by their very nature support actors and not the main cast in a batting line-up.
But what took place on Sunday was a poor reflection on the Indian bowling attack. Rashid (60; 8x4) played out 155 deliveries while Dawson remained undefeated on 66 (1x6, 5x4) while mocking the bowling attack for 148 deliveries.
Together they put on 98 runs for the eighth wicket.
Spin and pace bowling were handled alike by these batsmen of indeterminate quality. Their showing was an eye-opener for the Indian team. If they wish to perform well abroad and on pitches that don’t support their type of bowlers, they must regularly get a drop on tail-enders, if not top order batsmen.
The home bowlers actually did well in the morning. But at the end of the day it would have been England who would have been proud of the fightback.
India will be under pressure on the morrow. Their batsmen did so well in the earlier Test to smash England’s resistance. Sunday presents yet another opportunity for not just the consistent batsmen, Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara, but also Karun Nair, Parthiv Patel, Rahul and the others. Hopefully Vijay will be at hand to do battle on his home turf. Else it would be a big body blow to the home side who, at this stage, look destined to do all the chasing over the next three days.
Updated Date: Dec 17, 2016 21:45:49 IST