England v India, 2nd npower Test, Trent Bridge, 4th day August 1, 2011

Limp India regress into retro mode

For the most part of the second Test, India looked like they belonged not to a bygone age of general trendiness and cool that the best of retro represents, but a time of cricketing nightmares

On a grim afternoon, everything around Trent Bridge belonged to modern times: flood lights, four umpires, a match referee, the DRS, international rankings, advertising hoardings and blimps. Amid the modernity, India were playing retro cricket.

For the most part of this second Test, India looked like they belonged not to a bygone age of general trendiness and cool that the best of retro represents, but a time of cricketing nightmares: when the travelling was mostly timid, the opposition bowlers always too much of a handful and India were always fighting against the tide.

Retro can almost always work in fashion and music, but in cricket it only translates into the worst numbers on a score-sheet. At the end of the Trent Bridge Test, India's numbers were dire: 0-2 down in a four-Test series, defeats by 196 and 319 runs, and totals of 285, 261, 288 and 158 so far. This was not the India of the perpetual scrap, the high bouncebackability quotient, the No. 1 Test ranking (in that precise order in terms of significance). On what turned out to be the final afternoon of the Test, as the wickets column on the giant scoreboard to the left of the pavilion ticked over ominously, Sachin Tendulkar, out for 56, could have been playing in the grim 1990s. At one end of the pitch was skill and intent of high quality. At the other, a revolving door.

Nottingham may well hurt more than Lord's. India, after all, began the game on their own terms: they won the toss and bowled in conditions that make seam bowlers drool and batsmen wince. They eventually dismissed England for 221 and took a first-innings lead of 67. Anyone who walked into the Indian dressing room at tea on the first day and told them they were going to be defeated inside four days by 319 runs would have been beaned with a bat.

India's miseries in this Test have been manifold, and they while they may begin with a tired list of injuries, fatigue and bad luck, they do not end there. Beyond the gloomy events of Monday, the tale of Trent Bridge resides in a sub-plot: India's inability to lift their game when challenged by England.

On the first and second days, India went into the final session in control of the Test. On the opening day, England were 124 for 8 at tea. On the second India were 215 for 4, trailing by 6. In the short passages of play that followed, England pulled off two grand, brazen heists. Before India knew it, the ground beneath their feet had moved and the territory of control in the Test had been stolen. Man-of-the-Match Stuart Broad was responsible for much of that but India's lack of energy, intensity and focus in all departments was a significant contributor.

When England attacked, India retreated. In the last two years, particularly since they went to the top of the ICC Test rankings, Dhoni's men have absorbed punches and found second winds. In Nottingham, they just ran out of oxygen; in both ideas with the ball and determination with the bat. After two days of swinging fortunes and enthralling individual contests, the third day unveiled the direction the game was taking.

India's lack of resilience was manifested in their response to two partnerships: between Broad and Graeme Swann in the first innings, and even more clearly when Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen saw off the new ball in the second innings. India lacked bowling options to help the seamers in the dry period from the 50th over or so up to the second new ball; in the second half of their second innings - from the 60th over to the 121st - England were able to score 308 runs. India bowled what one Test Match Special commentator described as "flighted nothingness" and "long-hop lollipops". India's seamers may have accounted well for themselves in the absence of Zaheer Khan, but to not to have slow-bowling options was reminiscent of Indian cricket's dark ages.

After a reasonable performance in the first innings, India's seamers found themselves overburdened in the second; they had far too little back-up and were given strange fields. There were deep points when new batsmen arrived, not enough close-in catchers, third man was conspicuous by his absence on a ground where plenty of runs were guided behind the wicket - Rahul Dravid's first-innings wagon wheel is an illustration of the zones the batsmen were aiming at in Nottingham. It was not just the placement of the fielders that hampered the bowlers. If the Indian fielding was to be shown in black and white, viewers would have thought it was the 1970s.

On the fourth day, the batting went into meltdown; not necessarily because the players lacked the character required for a long fight, but because some of them simply lacked the skill needed to endure sustained periods of pressure from England's bowling. Tim Bresnan, England's replacement for Chris Tremlett, showed off the weight and menace of his short ball and went through the Indian line-up like a boxer working his way past weaker sparring partners. Abhinav Mukund fell to pure poison, Suresh Raina to a rush of panic and Yuvraj Singh to a trap set up by some merciless treatment. MS Dhoni's wicket was emblematic of India's performance in the Test: just like his team had not offered resistance in the face of England's aggression, their captain did not offer a shot. Three of the top seven batsmen fell to unplayable deliveries; the rest made or were forced to make errors of judgement. In the last 11 years, India have lost their top six for a lower score only twice, and both times at home.

In the last decade, India have made definite progress but they must now prove they have not stagnated. At the moment, England are the team surging forward and their bowling in this Test was fierce and impressive; their fast bowlers have not only pace but also discipline and accuracy. It is only with accuracy that speed becomes a bonus.

India's defeat at Trent Bridge is significant and must be marked in memory because, for more than three decades, England has been one of India's least intimidating overseas tours. Since the 0-3 series defeat in 1974, India ; have not lost more than one Test match on a tour of England; after 1996, they have not been beaten by England in a series. Every tour, regardless of the result, has provided the stage for either a startling batting arrival for India, or a memorable performance.

Victory in 1986 remained the last overseas series win outside the subcontinent for two decades, 1990 brought Tendulkar, 1996 Ganguly and Dravid, 2002 a win at Headingley and the arrival of Virender Sehwag as a Test opener, 2007 swing, Zaheer Khan's zenith and a series win. Until Monday, India had not lost back-to-back Tests since their defeat to Australia at the SCG in January 2008; between then and the start of this tour they had played 38 Tests, won 18 and lost just six.

Remember this day in Indian cricket: it could mark either beginning or end. We will know in three weeks.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Martin on August 4, 2011, 11:40 GMT

    @Anfaal Ganatra - thank you. Turning to Fletcher/Kirsten. I would say that you have to give Fletcher an awful lot more time in the job. He did some great things for England as I'm sure you'll know - and I think it's fair to say that he has inherited all of this mess from Kirsten, who IMO knew when it was the right time to get the hell out. Fletcher is not a fool - he would have known perfectly well that he was inheriting a team with stars near the end of their careers, and would have known that it was going to be his job to manage their exits and bring in new blood to make India great again. He also would have known that Indian batsmen were going to struggle against the swinging ball - just as he'd seen Aus batsmen struggle in 2005 - and IMO Aus batting in 2005 was better than India batting is today. Fletcher IS a good coach - he cannot be blamed for the strength of the current England team, but - in Strauss, Cook, Pietersen, Bell, Fletcher did lay some of the foundations for it.

  • Dummy4 on August 3, 2011, 9:52 GMT

    very well written and correct points made Godfrey and 5wombatts, Harbajan has totally lost it and doesn't deserve to be in the playing eleven and I believe the current injury is just an eyewash he is just plane dropped but sadly even after all these years we haven't matured enough to call a spade a spade we still sugar coat the bitter pill. The only other thing I could add is bring back Gary Kirsten cause it's obvious now Fletcher is not right for the job. Dhoni should go as well but that wont happen anytime soon I guess he's got some history to back him for the moment.

  • Dummy4 on August 3, 2011, 9:13 GMT

    @Pippa- Thats an insult uncalled for!

  • shashi on August 3, 2011, 9:10 GMT

    Guyz Just chill out. England were better team in the seaming conditions. India could have got 600 on a spinning pitch and got Eng out twice..May be.. But surely India lacked a good bowling attack. Watching this test match closely, one can feel pain for Ind fast bowlers. They did great, but with in their limitations. If one can see, test series between Pak and Aus or Pak and Eng, it was bowlers who dominated and all the scores were less than 300. If the same would have happened here..India might have still lost but not by this margin. We surely missed quality pace attack. On some other day and pitch the same bowlers might have got 20 wickets for 300..for the effort they put in. On the other hand India have only 3 quality test playing batsmen in the side and others were just lucky to get a chance who could have scored brisk centuries in Aus or India where there is little to no swing. Eng was better equipped with batsmen who can play swing with decades of practice.

  • bitap on August 3, 2011, 8:40 GMT

    Why did selectors drop Cheteshwar Pujara? He seem much better technically than Raina, raina after getting so many chances still cannot play the short ball.Similarly Progryan Ojha bowled much better than Bajji in South Africa,Inidna crocket is loser because the of the lobby of Dhoni and Bhajji.When did Dhoni batted to save or win a test match, and he keeps dropping simple catches...untill Dhoni is ousted fromt the test team, we will not win againist quality teams. India became no.1 team not because of him, but earlier good work done by Dravid,Kubmle and Ganguli. Dhoni is like a cheap imitation brand compared to these classy player..

  • Shanmuga on August 3, 2011, 7:37 GMT

    Don't play with a fixed 11 as always. Give chance to Rohit,Rayudu,Rahane,Tiwary etc. Stop Grade A players from IPL,Champions league. Indian people please don't support IPL even for the sake of their adult shows.

  • Thank You on August 3, 2011, 7:19 GMT

    India needs to breed a fast bowler who is lethally fast - never mind accuracy- just someone who can literally finish careers of foreign bats. There needs to be an institute created just for fast bowlers - kids should be recruited at an early age and raised to be fast bowlers. In 10 years we'll have a whole army of them

  • Dummy4 on August 3, 2011, 6:23 GMT

    @Jyotish: I am not a fan of him just like that. I dont know about him now. But when he was at his prime he was the Opener with best defense technique in India like Sunil Gavaskar. But who cares that in India. They want flashers dashers blasters from top to bottom. I wished that Ganguly had persisted with him for some more time @Jyotish: I am not a fan of him just like that. I dont know about him now. But when he was at his prime he was the Opener with best defense technique in India like Sunil Gavaskar. But who cares that in India. They want flashers dashers blasters from top to bottom. I wished that Ganguly had persisted with him for some more time

  • Prakash on August 3, 2011, 5:39 GMT

    I don't see how India will be able to pick up after the loss at Trent bridge. I would blame the bowlers who allowed England to score freely in second Innings despite having lead and allowed them to post a huge total of 544.Now yes Indian Batsmen didn't play their best cricket but remember we need 4 bowlers to take 20 wickets in a test match.Ishant's Inconsistency,Shreesanth's Indiscipline and PK's lack of intensity will not fetch india even a single victoey in this series.Well bhajji shud be dropped and someone like Mishra or Ojha shud be given a chance.god help India

  • Dummy4 on August 3, 2011, 5:13 GMT

    There is a saying "whatever goes around comes back"(or something similar..)in 1993 Eng came to India boasting they were one of the best sides in the world.Before the series Eng captain/coach warned against India preparing spin friendly tracks because Eng spinners were better than their Indian counter parts.I still remember this and us laughing at Salisbury and Phil Tufnel quoting these comments.I was at high school then.The likes of Robin Smith and Alan Lamb and a certain Blakey(keeper) were never seen again on a cricket field.I think Gatting also retired after that series.The series was won by India 3-0 and a certain Anil Kumble had arrived (not much talked about till then).I have a sickening feeling after 18 years India is going to be at the receiving end.BUT after that tour the 92 WC finalists England reached abysmal depths in ODIs also..will history repeat itself with India...as an Indian fan i am apprehensive!!!!

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