England v India, 2nd Investec Test, Lord's 2nd day July 18, 2014

Bowlers allow Dhoni to breathe again

Usually India's bowlers are ridiculed for letting Dhoni down but on a day that Dhoni let them down, they kept their spirits up, didn't let England run away with it, and came up with their best bowling day in a long time

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Chappell: Bhuvneshwar has been India's player of the tour so far

It's about 2.40pm on a sultry hot day at Lord's. The sun is out; the food and the cakes and the drinks have flowed; and the mild breeze is threatening to send the stands into naps. But there is some intense Test cricket to follow.

On a pitch that has eased out considerably since the day one that England wasted, India's quicks are showing the hosts how to bowl on this pitch. They have been full, at the stumps, and have given England only a few easy runs, who are 85 for 3 in 37 overs.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been exceptional in that there have hardly been any ball to easily leave. He has used the slope well, bowling outswingers to right-hand batsmen before testing them with the other one once in a while. He has been doing the same to left-hand batsmen: take it away, take it away, then bring one in. Just the threat of one coming back in had Alastair Cook pushing at one and nicking behind. Sam Robson edged short of the cordon, was dropped, and yet didn't have enough patience to outlast the nagging new-ball spell of Bhuvneshwar, who has come came back after lunch to feast on Ian Bell's uncertain state of mind. After bowling 17 overs in well under three hours, for 34 runs and three wickets, Bhuvneshwar needs a rest.

There has been decent support from the other end. Mohammed Shami has bowled a few down the leg side, but if one bowler doesn't, how will the batsmen score a run? Ishant Sharma has generated some heat, and has asked questions of the right-handed Bell making the ball hold its line against the slope. The left-hand batsman Gary Ballance has put him off a little, but he has contributed to Bell's fall. But now we are getting into the stage where India usually let their intensity dip. Bhuvneshwar is tired, the ball has lost its shine, the pitch is easing out in the afternoon, and India need some control.

This is also time when Stuart Binny, their big hunch in this series, is about to be introduced. This next half hour has the potential to make or break this Test. England can easily run away with it if Binny is as innocuous as at Trent Bridge. But a tight spell can leave the other bowlers fresh for a pressure-filled burst before tea. On comes Binny, bowls full and slow, Ballance goes after him and gets away with a thick edge. At the end of the over drinks come on to the field. A moment to get your thoughts together, a moment to wonder if you are in control, a moment to perhaps question your own wisdom in sticking with Binny.

Just after drinks, Binny bowls again. The second ball of the over is a good delivery, pitched up outside off, shaping to swing in, and then holding its line after pitching, Ballance plays at it, and edges it. It goes to MS Dhoni's left and Shikhar Dhawan's right. It is high enough. Dhoni takes half a step towards it and lets it go. Dhawan is surprised and reacts late. Before you know Ballance has got four more runs.

This is a horrible miss. This is clearly Dhoni's catch, but he doesn't go for it. Nor is this the first time he has done that. He is an exceptional wicketkeeper standing up to the stumps, grabbing thick edges, making stumpings without a reverse follow-through at all. But standing back he has this annoying habit of not going for the catch between him and first slip. VVS Laxman has seen this often, today is Dhawan's turn. It seems he goes by the height of the ball, not its line. Earlier in the day he caught Cook, an offering that was wider than this but wouldn't have carried to first slip. This one is sailing at a comfortable height so he lets it go for Dhawan, although that can be no excuse.

This is, as they usually are, a keeper's catch, but what is Dhawan doing here? The best slippers are usually seen diving even when the wicketkeeper takes the catch in front of them. You have to expect, nay want, the ball to come to you. Here Dhawan is caught by surprise. He doesn't react at all. This is a huge moment in what is likely to be tight Test on a testing pitch. Over their last two tours, India have squandered winning positions because they tend to switch off. This is becoming a big problem: India just don't stay intense for long enough in Tests. The slips are stacking up.

Ballance capitalises on the mistake and scores a hundred. Moeen Ali, positive but not reckless, adds 98 with him. But here is the difference. India remain disciplined when it would have been easy to start thinking "Here we go again." The first square-cut boundary arrives 19 overs later, at the end of the 57th. Dhoni remains aggressive even as the partnership builds. He has seen there is turn on the pitch, and pulls M Vijay out of the hat. He feels under no pressure to justify Binny's selection and overbowl him. The fielding remains intense too.

Usually India's bowlers are ridiculed for letting Dhoni down. On a day that Dhoni has let them down, they kept their spirits up, didn't let England absolutely run away with it, and come back with two wickets just before stumps. This has been India's best bowling day without Zaheer Khan or spinners playing a lead role in a long time. It has come on a pitch made to order for the home team, and it has left India with yet another chance to post that elusive away Test win. Those who are used to India's bowlers letting the team down will need to sit down and have a seat belt on before even imagining what if Dhoni had taken that catch?

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Android on July 19, 2014, 17:26 GMT

    I think dhoni applying his wrist more on his batting than using elbow. Test or oneday you have tp play with the guidence of elbow. He almost forgot to play with elbow, thats why he is shuffling across. Ots really pathetic display by dhoni.

  • Rishi on July 19, 2014, 9:21 GMT

    In the current match between SL and RSA, Steyn took 5 out of the 10 wickets to fall in the first SL innings. Should this be considered a cause for concern for the SA bowling unit?

  • Android on July 19, 2014, 7:38 GMT

    Hope this tour does not turn out to be a 2011 hell again where a bowler named Kumar takes 4 or 5 wickets wickets and the rest bowl rubbish. Honestly, i would rather see wickets column for both Shami and Ishant instead of 2 or less run rate. Bowling tight is Jadejas job.

  • Agnel on July 19, 2014, 7:36 GMT

    Dhoni does this time and again. He was standing there hands folded as if he was rehearsing for a modelling event! Come on, the leaders lead from the front, dont let it for others. Dhawan was 3 yards behind and this test could have been sealed much earlier had Dhoni took what would have been a regulation catch - no diving required! And imagine what effect it would have made on Binny, albeit a bits and pieces man, but that wicket of Ballance and then the right handers to follow, Binny's outswingers would have become more lethal. England would have folded off for less than 200 giving a big confidence boost for Indian batsmen to come out in the second innings and post an unsurmountable total on board. And it would have been worth watching England's demise in the second innings as well, with the added pressure of chasing big target amid facing Indian dibbly dobblers. Mind you, England's tale can wag and Dhoni will pay for that miss, despite recovery by Indian pacers.

  • RAJARAMAN on July 19, 2014, 7:23 GMT

    Oh ... no time wasted in crucifying MSD, in a match yet to be completed ... that was not even a dropped catch ... silly, that is all ... if bowlers at this level do not know to move on from a blirp on fielders' part, they don't deserve to be there ...

  • Black on July 19, 2014, 7:18 GMT


    Completely wrong. We batted on a green pitch on Day 1. We bowled on a flat pitch on Day 2. We've done very well, especially Bhuvi, who shined on both days! Stop undervaluing the team's work. There are 3 days left and we're likely to lose today because of bad weather.... draw on the cards. Though the SL/SA match has been slower than this...

  • Tahir on July 19, 2014, 4:02 GMT

    Only Bhuvi took most of the wickets. One wicket went to a non regular bowler and one to jadeja. Bhuvi took bell/cook who are wallking wicket, robson a youngster, and balance had done the damage by the time he got out and bhuvi was bowling in that period. So, no heriocs by indian bowlers as the article suggests. India lost 9 in the day while england only six.

  • vijay on July 19, 2014, 1:13 GMT

    Bowlers are doing good. A catch missed by Dhoni is OK as its not that often. But what remains a concern is the batting - especially openers with Dhoni opting Binny, a bits n pieces all-rounder(already have one more - Sir Jaddu) in the team. Its been a while that Shikar has shown any consistency at the top and needs to be rested/replaced by Gambhir who cant be worse - IF India wants to post a good score, give more rest/confidence/time-to-bow/recover to bowlers to maintain the steam and win.

  • Vinod on July 18, 2014, 23:43 GMT

    Dhawan should have gone for this even as dhoni didnt.....all in all Binny had sufficient oppurtunities even after the catch/drop to make up for this. If he cannot capitalise on bowling on what is the best pitch he can ever get in his life, his batting abilities apart hopefully the message will hit home that he needs to be dropped. The bigger picture-hopefully india will move on from its current fixatiion on 120kmph dibbly dobblers and get some focus on bowlers who can take wickets by leather hitting the woodwork as opposed to getting wickets by the batsman slogging a half tracker to the long on boundary....seismic mind set change...but yeah hopeful it will happen....

  • Naresh on July 18, 2014, 22:35 GMT

    Bowlers primary role is to take wickets. Bhuvi is the only one doing that. It will be hard for India to win at this rate.

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