India in England 2014 July 15, 2014

India out-reversed on dry pitch

England consigned India to two reverse-swing-induced collapses whereas India bowlers mainly relied on the new ball's movement and uneven bounce by hitting the deck hard

There was a time when reverse-swing was a strictly Asian art. Well, Pakistani first, and then rest of Asia's. The rest of the world has caught up with it now. Dale Steyn and James Anderson might even be the finest exponents of it. Still, when an England side outdoes India in almost Indian conditions on the reverse-swing front, it must hurt them as much as it should England or Australia if India or Pakistan bowl at top of off more often than them in green seaming conditions. In Nottingham, on a slow and low surface acknowledged by both sides as more Indian than English, the hosts out-reversed India.

England consigned India to two reverse-swing-induced collapses whereas India bowlers mainly relied on the new ball's movement and uneven bounce by hitting the deck hard. There are three aspects to a contest of reverse-swing, and India were short on all three: maintaining the ball, then actually bowling with it, and weathering the storm with the bat once the opposition starts getting it to go.

Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane seem to be India's designated ball shiners. They worked hard on it through India's bowling, but there is more to maintaining the ball for reverse swing. Those commentators who were watching closely, looking for signs of reverse, say England simply maintained the ball better.

Earlier in the year, a Test between South Africa and Australia, played in similar conditions in Port Elizabeth, got ugly because the umpires took an exception to the repeated banging of the ball into the ground by infielders. England were smarter here.

They waited for the ball to go just far enough to justify that throw on the bounce. On occasions throws from mid-off or mid-on reached the stumps at the striker's end on a half-volley, which forced Matt Prior to go back and collect them on the bounce. Stuart Broad didn't mind sticking the boot out when fielding in his follow-through. In 2008, Wasim Akram, the king of reverse-swing, told ESPNcricinfo in an interview: "Sometimes bowlers used to stop the ball played back at them with their foot. If the boot spikes hit the rough side, it was Christmas. If it didn't, you shone the ball and moved on." Liam Plunkett bowled a spell made up almost exclusively of bouncers before lunch on day one, and the ball began to go just after lunch.

The reverse might not have been a direct result of all this, but England were trying more than India. And this is not ball-tampering. Not until it gets so excessive that umpires start to take notice. You have to keep trying, and keep trying within reasonable limits. After maintaining it, though, you need to bowl well with it too. The England quicks do seem to have more pace and accuracy, than India's, to be able to exploit reverse. At various stages, Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami have shown they can cause damage with reverse, but they are not quite Zaheer Khan with it. When Cheteshwar Pujara was asked if it was disappointing that England did more with the old ball than India, he bemoaned the lack of carry in the pitch, but isn't the lack of carry the necessity in the first place?

Also India are familiar with batting on such pitches, which is why their two periods of struggle against the reversing ball should come as a disappointment. In the first innings, Pujara went hard at one slightly slower inswinger from Anderson, and offered a catch to short mid-on. This was just when the ball had begun to go with the shine. Virat Kohli followed Pujara by becoming too mindful of inswing, and poked at a delivery wide enough to be left alone in normal circumstances.

The second innings was worse. On the final day, which began with the ball reversing, Kohli committed the biggest mistake: a drive across the line. Ajinkya Rahane repeated Kohli's first-innings mistake by looking to cover for the inswing, thus playing at a delivery wide enough to be left alone. It was a nervous shot, but also a better delivery than what Kohli got in the first innings. MS Dhoni became a victim of inswing later in that session, which could have cost India the Test.

The conditions, by all popular expectations, are not likely to change drastically over the series. It is hard to tell if India are pleased or displeased: they will welcome the soft launch for their batsmen, but these conditions eliminate their spinners and their quicks have struggled to bowl sides out twice for a long time. Reverse-swing promises to be a big factor in the rest of the series, and India will need to get better at dealing with it both when bowling and batting. Watch out for those throws into the ground and stuck-out boots.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on July 16, 2014, 23:25 GMT

    And I'm still naive enough to think that 130 overs a day could be bowled if fielders returned the ball (on the full or the bounce) directly to the bowler rather than the keeper after every ball.

  • Manesh on July 16, 2014, 6:32 GMT

    @Anvesh Shrivastava . You have mentioned about U.Yadav's control. What about Ishant who is far more senior than U.Yadav? I cannot find anything special from him than few good balls or spells from him. And Dhoni is holding his place just because he is the captain. He failed most of the timeas a batsman and even dropped catches in crucial situations. Due to his defensive approach and decisions India lost matches in SA and NZ where a win was sure.No need to continue with tested and failed Aswin in overseas tests. Either perform well or keep them for sub-continent just like Raina. Including players who are in good form is not at all a bad idea. 3 100s in 3 inngs isn't joke, dear.

  • King on July 15, 2014, 16:06 GMT

    I think Englishmen will over come India at Lord's. It's not going to be fully batter friendly track this time around after what happened in the last test.

  • vas on July 15, 2014, 15:05 GMT

    It will be suicidal on Dhoni's part and for the team India if Ashwin is not managed properly. Ashwin should come in. They have to choose one of Jadeja/Rohit/Binny depending on the conditions for the last spot.

  • Raj on July 15, 2014, 14:59 GMT

    I really want India to win this test series even with 1-0 or draw 1-1 is also acceptable. Becoz after many away tests/series failure this is a good chance for team India to win a test or two away from home. Becoz after England we will to move to down under to play Australia in Nov. & w/o any shame or doubt it's true it's nearly impossible to win a single test against Aussies in down under. Becoz of totally different Pitches & more than that obviously too far better bowling line up than English team really they are the best bowling line up in the world right now. So I hope India will doing well in upcoming 4 matches against England.

  • Richard on July 15, 2014, 14:53 GMT

    England's current test squad does not contain any bowlers remotely in the class of Wasim Akram, in terms of reverse swing or any other attribute, so India can be confident that any helpful conditions for swing will be of just as much assistance to them as England. India should now be confident having drawn the first test and seen there is not too much to fear from England's bowling - bearing in mind touring teams are generally a bit ring-rusty for the first test in a series and India only had two gentle warm-up games one of which was severely reduced by rain. The first test was effectively a proper warm-up for India and they will put more pressure on England at Lords now they are up and running and England failed to get a result from the first game.

  • Android on July 15, 2014, 14:43 GMT

    rohit and ashwin should replace binny and jadeja for the next match.

  • David on July 15, 2014, 14:42 GMT

    @ Sir_Ivor believes "I feel that,Jadeja could possibly flight the ball more while imparting more spin to the ball."

    Jadega can put more spin on the ball? Really? Even he has said he never knows if it will turn or not. Dhone puts more spin of India's performance than Jadega does on any delivery!

  • Krishna on July 15, 2014, 13:35 GMT

    If India have to do better, they have to do both things better: Bowling and batting. While people keep saying that Indians play spin superbly, the recent lot including RD and SRT in their last stages have not. They have struggled against the likes of MM, GW, MP, etc. The one spinner who was played well is SW. Even less can be said against pace and swing. Indian quicks didn't exploit helpful conditions in Australia either. IMHO, Bhajji has faced far better away from India than Ashwin. He can be a useful bat at No.8, but the need of the hour is an effective spinner who can bowl well in all conditions. Shikar/Vijay need to be developed as part time spinners at least to give the other bowlers a rest. Who knows, one could become a spinning allrounder. Overall, I just hope both the bowlers and batsmen pull up their socks and start delivering.

  • Vinod on July 15, 2014, 13:04 GMT

    Umesh Yadav....we need him...else we donot have anyone who can shiver the timbers......I felt Ishant bowled with good intensity and rhythm augurs well for Lords.....Hope Binny has played his last test. Ever. Hope Jadeja has played his last overseas test. Ever. Since Yadav is not available, hope india select Aaron ....and hpe he lives up to the media generated hype of him bowling quick as opposed to the regular 120 kmph pathetic popgun twaddle that permeates indian cricket.....cricinfo plz publish