England v India, 1st Investec Test, Trent Bridge, 2nd day July 10, 2014

Change of attitude aids remarkable stand

India's recent track of record of lower-order runs is poor, but they began correcting that with a mammoth 10th wicket stand which showed the application and mindset that has often been lacking

Play 03:18
Agarkar: Last stand reduced India's chances of losing

You would need a bad memory - not always a bad thing - to have not thought of Durban just after lunch. Back then, in the last week of the last year, India had been given a flat slow pitch, they had won the toss, had got a good start to the innings, but their tail showed no fight whatsoever when they could have batted South Africa out of the game, made sure they would not lose the series and gone after the South Africa batsman with a free mind. The last five wickets went for 14, India lost the series, and nothing summed the situation up better than Zaheer Khan's second-ball duck ending through a slash after moving away from the stumps.

It showed poor team culture. These were the same bowlers who had given India valuable runs when the team was playing at its best; they were now either running away or not taking their batting seriously. In an era when every tailender, armoured and spoiled by pitches going flatter by the day, makes bowlers get him out, India's tail was non-existent in away matches. Between July 2011 and July 2014, before the start of this match, India have averaged 16.62 for the last three wickets. Only West Indies, Pakistan and Zimbabwe have fared worse. Until today India did not feature in any of the big last-three wicket partnerships over that period.

Going by that track record, this game was going away, and going away fast. And this was an innings where you would have expected extra responsibility from the lower middle order given the bold move of playing only five batsmen. MS Dhoni showed that responsibility, although he was aided by some good fortune. Ravindra Jadeja did not, and got out to a loose shot, although it did seem that Jadeja going for his shots was part of a plan. Debutant Stuart Binny played a horrible nothing shot, and Ishant Sharma misjudged a leave. This was Durban all over again: India had lost four wickets for four runs, they were going to get bowled out for a sub-par score on a flat pitch, and hand over all the momentum to the hosts.

Tail-end runs are as much about attitude as they are about skill and luck. Sometimes you enjoy some good fortune and have a bit of a lark. Sometimes your No. 9 has the skills of a batsman. Mostly, though, they start with a bit of application, an attitude that says 'I am not getting myself out', and you enjoy the luck, the bowlers get tired, and it gets difficult to get you out because most of bowlers' training is in getting proper batsmen out. Everything worked out for Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami here, and they ended up scoring their maiden Test fifties, posted India's longest last-wicket partnership outside Asia, and all but made sure India cannot lose this Test now.

This pitch was similar to Durban. And although there was no Dale Steyn, India still needed some application from somewhere because this match was slipping out of their hands. A calm head needed to arrest that momentum. Bhuvneshwar provided that calm head. He once scored a Duleep Trophy century, which featured a 127-run stand with a No. 11, out of which the No. 11 made only 39. He began similarly here, protecting Shami for a period before letting him become an equal partner, once assured that he could fend for himself on this benign track.

"We just wanted to bat for as long as possible," Bhuvneshwar later said.

Bhuvneshwar batted almost like a proper batsman while Shami had a bit of fun. Most important was that they were not playing soft shots, at least not at the start of the innings. Good fortune followed. A half chance flew wide of short mid-on, the position that had claimed Cheteshwar Pujara on the opening day. Another edge was missed by umpire Bruce Oxenford, who had another shocker with ruling M Vijay out incorrectly.

Dhoni has often spoken of the value of the lower-order runs, not just as pure runs but also as a nuisance for the other team, especially their openers. With the whole team coming out to the balcony to applaud the duo's milestones, you could sense the importance they attached to this partnership, especially after more than a couple of them had been naughty with their batting.

You usually associate entertainment and hilarity with partnerships between two tailenders, but there was not much here, thanks largely to an unresponsive pitch. Bhuvneshwar acknowledged this was more like an Indian surface than an English one. Not many might have been entertained by this particular stand, but the value of it in that Indian dressing room is immense. For starters, they will not be thinking of Durban too much.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on July 11, 2014, 14:50 GMT

    Good scores from tail enders helps in a lot of ways. 1. It frustrates the opponent bowlers, leading them to drop their shoulders. 2. It shifts the momentum when it is your turn to bowl at the end of the tail ender's innings. 3. It adds to the bowler's confidence. 4. It lets the bowlers size up the pitch from the perspective of a batsman - leading them to better strategize. All these are benefits besides the additional runs and time spent.

  • Roshan on July 11, 2014, 10:41 GMT

    Incredible batting from the two tail-enders yesterday. Now England need to dig in and bat out a day or two to get to India's total. But what to do about Alastair Cook? He looks so poor now. It must be something mental. If England start winning and playing well I am sure that will take the pressure off him and he will find form again.

  • AJay on July 11, 2014, 10:32 GMT

    Hi - A slightly different subject - Two umpiring errors - one went against India, the other was in their favour. Really what will it take for India to adopt technology and the review system? On balance all the teams are better of using technology, despite its imperfections. It appears BCCI do not like it because Tendulkar had misgivings. Will India loosing a few Tests because of bad decisions make any difference? Not under the current regime. Let us hope after Mudgal we get new people in BCCI and they see light.

  • Supratik on July 11, 2014, 8:14 GMT

    @doubledeckerbaas, at the pace this game is going, even 6 days will not be enough for India to take 20 wickets! And what if Eng avoids the follow on and India need to bat again? Then it will be even less than 3 days isnt it? India needed to bat quick yesterday - both teams run rates are less than 3 an over. I am not at all asking for T20 batting, but for a test match to get a result, run rate for one has to be AT LEAST 3.50. And yes, I would still maintain that Jadeja and Binny were doing the right thing by trying to force the issue.

  • Dummy4 on July 11, 2014, 8:01 GMT

    Good points made in the article, but it doesn't touch on England's problems with getting the tail out. This is the third 100+ last wicket stand against England in a little over 2 years (Best and Ramdin and Hughes and Agar being the others). As Oscar Wilde might have put it, to concede on century last wicket partnership may be bad luck, two smacks of carelessness and three suggests stupid bowling plans (bowling short and wide doesn't work to any batsman, not even a number 11).

  • Dummy4 on July 11, 2014, 8:01 GMT

    While batting Binny showed that he is still in T20 mode. Ishant has still not learnt to protect his wicket . Under these circumstances,the application and fight shown by rookies Bhuvaneshwar and Shami was really heartening . The last wicket partnership must have infused some confidence in the Indians . The Indian bowlers should believe that they can take wickets and should not try to bowl defensively . Looking at the state of the wicket , England will not force the pace and will only look to play for a draw . They will be cryng to the Groundsmen to provide better wickets in the forth coming tests atleast .

  • Dummy4 on July 11, 2014, 7:51 GMT

    sray23 if bhuvi and shami would have hit out or get out then probably England would be at 150 or 200 for 2 or 3 wickets at stumps and India would be out of the match.Not only they put up crucial 100 runs but batted for more than 40 overs and because of that India has the upper hand.

  • geoff on July 11, 2014, 7:19 GMT

    Sray23; I'm afraid you have watched far too much smash and bash cricket to appreciate test match heroics. India have 3 days to take 20 wickets. Batting first is always about getting as many as you can so that you don't need to bat too much in the second innings. Rather follow the IPL if you think Binny and Jadeja did a good job yesterday.

  • Dummy4 on July 11, 2014, 6:34 GMT

    lets not get carried away with making bhuvi an all rounder...we all know what happened to bowlers first who tried to become all rounders! agarkar, irfan pathan...they couldnt do one thing well enough..bhuvi needs to concentrate on bowling, put on some muscles to add some speed to his bowling!...and have batting as a bonus...

  • Dummy4 on July 11, 2014, 6:12 GMT

    They both played like proper batsmen, didn't they? Applied themselves, playing with a straight bat for the most part. Even flicks and nudges to the leg were coming off reasonably straight bats. Getting behind the ball and playing with a straight bat and looking for singles instead of slashing your way out of trouble, which is the traditional tailender's way of batting, is always going to get you runs, no matter which number you come in at, and what label you have got on (a tailender or a genuine bat) as these boys showed yesterday. Well played.