England v India, 3rd Investec Test, Ageas Bowl, 2nd day July 28, 2014

Weary India facing familiar test

After being pushed on to the defensive in the field, it is up to India's batsmen to try and prevent a return to the bad old days of touring
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'Two hard days for us' - Bhuvneshwar

A five-Test series was always going to be a challenge for India. In the second half of the first back-to-back Tests, at Lord's, they gave it their all: batsmen showed discipline for long hours, bowlers bowled long testing spells, MS Dhoni went against the grain and showed rare aggression and tactical nous as captain. But the question always was, how much did it take out of India?

In Southampton, Ishant Sharma was ruled out with an injury broadly described by India as a "sore leg", Bhuvneshwar Kumar was down on intensity, with the ball not seaming as much as it did at Lord's, and Mohammed Shami's lack of discipline became exposed when others around him didn't bowl that well. Now it's down to the batsmen once again to make sure India do not fall back to the bad old days.

It didn't help India that their slips give no confidence to the bowlers - another catch went down, another catch that the wicketkeeper should have gone for - but the bigger concern would be that they decided too early that the pitch was too flat and that they couldn't win the match. As early as the middle session of the second day, India went to Ravindra Jadeja as their main bowler, who darted balls into the pads with a six-three leg-side field.

The pursuit, like it was in Durban when they didn't take the second new ball until they were forced to after 146 overs, seemed to just contain and delay England's declaration. It is up for debate if thinking of a draw when your enforcing bowler is injured, you have a long series to go through, and you have the series lead, is such a bad thing, but that attitude can lead to dropping of intensity. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who bowled tirelessly at Lord's for six wickets in the first innings, echoed what was happening out there.

"Wicket is flat, easy for batsman," Bhuvneshwar said. "We tried our best as a bowling unit but we have had two long days."

The two long days led to extreme steps by Dhoni. In the middle session of day two, he had his bowlers bowling one-over spells for a long period. The 16th over after lunch was the first time a bowler had bowled two continuous overs from the same end. When Bhuvneshwar created an opportunity in the second half of the session, he was rewarded with another over. He was testing still, but that's all he got. Debutant Pankaj Singh was brought on for the next over, and the first ball he bowled was a leg-side loosener. That can happen when you don't let the bowlers get into any rhythm.

Bhuvneshwar, though, said the number of overs they have bowled justified that extreme rotation of bowlers. "I found that really easy, being in the field for one-and-a-half days we were really tired," Bhuvneshwar said. "Skipper wanted us to bowl one-over spells. By then we were in rhythm as well and we were not getting tired. Personally we found that easy."

When asked about conceding boundaries on both side of the wicket, Bhuvneshwar brought up fatigue again. "When [Gary] Ballance and [Alastair] Cook were batting, the situation demanded that we bowl on one side," Bhuvneshwar said. "Sometimes we were tired, been a long day in the field, it is natural, we are human beings. We tried our best to bowl in a particular area. We tried different strategies."

The slips' slips can't be put down to tiredness, though. Bhuvneshwar sounded forgiving, although you can't expect him or a lot of other India players to accept in a press conference that there is something wrong with them. "Being a bowler you have to know they are going to take some catches, and they are going to drop a few," Bhuvneshwar said. "Every team drops a few catches, but you have to trust the fielder. You can't ask anyone to come out of the slips. All you want is to give them confidence. It happens in cricket that catches are dropped. So far, in all three matches it has been good for us."

Tired bowlers, one injured bowler, dropped catches, dropped pace, captaincy waiting for declaration, an early wicket before stumps, it all sounds like a perfect recipe for disaster. India will dearly love to go to Old Trafford still ahead in the series but their batsmen have a long way to go to ensure that, going by how well James Anderson bowled in that seven-over burst and how the pitch has responded to his pace as opposed to India's put-it-there bowlers.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • JaranNirsi on July 28, 2014, 21:52 GMT

    This is going to be a severe test of the Indian team's resolve. I suspect that MSD read the pitch well and decided on swapping Rohit for Binny, to address just the situation the team finds itself in. Pity he didn't win the toss and bat first. Avid that the catches the bowlers earned were not taken. Now it's going to be a rearguard operation, and india can learn from SA that it can be done, but do it with more courage and not as defensively.

  • on July 30, 2014, 4:15 GMT

    I am appreciating ECB That is what humanity wants thanku

  • indianzen on July 29, 2014, 18:21 GMT

    Had India Batted, England would have an innings defeat by now...

  • on July 29, 2014, 17:47 GMT

    the game is heading in a same way as that of aus sa adelaide match. .looks like a nail biting draw is on the cards..

  • on July 29, 2014, 17:42 GMT

    wish India should draw inspiration from 2001 kolkata match win against aus to force a draw in this match even though conditions are different , higher spirit than that. should inspire a match saving second Innings in this match..

  • on July 29, 2014, 16:58 GMT

    Dropping Slip Catchers, Tired Fielders are the main reasons I SUPPORT Suresh Raina.. He never showed that he is tired even on the fifth day. He'l still give his heart out in fielding. Some lack of batting techniques bothers him.

  • on July 29, 2014, 13:16 GMT

    it's a utter nonsense from.kohli vijay pujara no concentration focus ..why they tend to play shots against Anderson or broad ..Instead of pushing against them better to leave balls..it's costing..don't know what's the way now..

  • sumgad on July 29, 2014, 11:25 GMT

    If Indians are getting tired in five sessions of fielding than they have to work on their fitness. They have been brought up on four days of Ranjhi trophy and three hours of T20. To lose their line and length and field the way they did was disappointing. It was even more irritating to see Dhoni being so lethargic and totally devoid of any ideas.

  • on July 29, 2014, 9:40 GMT

    India should bat for two days on this wicket...and they will....

  • on July 29, 2014, 9:22 GMT

    Just don't get it why can't they just let vijay open with pujara.Pujara has been virtually opening the batting in all innings this tour.The only chance of India winning this is if they score around 350 each on day 3 and day 4 and reach score around 700.That way they get to bowl England on 5th day and hope the pitch becomes uneven and turns.

  • JaranNirsi on July 28, 2014, 21:52 GMT

    This is going to be a severe test of the Indian team's resolve. I suspect that MSD read the pitch well and decided on swapping Rohit for Binny, to address just the situation the team finds itself in. Pity he didn't win the toss and bat first. Avid that the catches the bowlers earned were not taken. Now it's going to be a rearguard operation, and india can learn from SA that it can be done, but do it with more courage and not as defensively.

  • on July 30, 2014, 4:15 GMT

    I am appreciating ECB That is what humanity wants thanku

  • indianzen on July 29, 2014, 18:21 GMT

    Had India Batted, England would have an innings defeat by now...

  • on July 29, 2014, 17:47 GMT

    the game is heading in a same way as that of aus sa adelaide match. .looks like a nail biting draw is on the cards..

  • on July 29, 2014, 17:42 GMT

    wish India should draw inspiration from 2001 kolkata match win against aus to force a draw in this match even though conditions are different , higher spirit than that. should inspire a match saving second Innings in this match..

  • on July 29, 2014, 16:58 GMT

    Dropping Slip Catchers, Tired Fielders are the main reasons I SUPPORT Suresh Raina.. He never showed that he is tired even on the fifth day. He'l still give his heart out in fielding. Some lack of batting techniques bothers him.

  • on July 29, 2014, 13:16 GMT

    it's a utter nonsense from.kohli vijay pujara no concentration focus ..why they tend to play shots against Anderson or broad ..Instead of pushing against them better to leave balls..it's costing..don't know what's the way now..

  • sumgad on July 29, 2014, 11:25 GMT

    If Indians are getting tired in five sessions of fielding than they have to work on their fitness. They have been brought up on four days of Ranjhi trophy and three hours of T20. To lose their line and length and field the way they did was disappointing. It was even more irritating to see Dhoni being so lethargic and totally devoid of any ideas.

  • on July 29, 2014, 9:40 GMT

    India should bat for two days on this wicket...and they will....

  • on July 29, 2014, 9:22 GMT

    Just don't get it why can't they just let vijay open with pujara.Pujara has been virtually opening the batting in all innings this tour.The only chance of India winning this is if they score around 350 each on day 3 and day 4 and reach score around 700.That way they get to bowl England on 5th day and hope the pitch becomes uneven and turns.

  • on July 29, 2014, 7:20 GMT

    India should drop Shikhar Dhawan for the next test and tell Pujara to open the innings with Vijay as these two are the most adept in leaving the deliveries outside the off stump and are most likely to give a good opening start to the team.

    Ajinkya Rahane should come in at No.3 , followed by Virat Johli and Rohit Sharma.

    Ravindra Jadeja has to be bat at No.6 to be in the test team as he cannot be in the team on the basis of his bowling. Dhoni has to be bat at No.7.

    We need to include either Umesh Yadav/Varun Aaron in the playing eleven along with Bhuvi, Ishant and Ashwin so that we have a bowler who can pick wickets by bowling at more than 145 kph on flat surfaces.

  • on July 29, 2014, 7:08 GMT

    India should drop Shikhar Dhawan for the next test and tell Pujara to open the innings with Vijay as these two are the most adept in leaving the deliveries outside the off stump and are most likely to give a good opening start to the team.

    Ajinkya Rahane should come in at No.3 , followed by Virat Johli and Rohit Sharma.

    Ravindra Jadeja has to be bat at No.6 to be in the test team as he cannot be in the team on the basis of his bowling. Dhoni has to be bat at No.7.

    We need to include either Umesh Yadav/Varun Aaron in the playing eleven along with Bhuvi, Ishant and Ashwin so that we have a bowler who can pick wickets by bowling at more than 145 kph on flat surfaces.

  • prudhvirazz on July 29, 2014, 6:57 GMT

    All seem to forget how bad Ghambir played during his last days. He looked like he only knew one shot "open the face of the bat and guide the ball towards 3rd man for a single or four". I think he won't be of any use as opener. He is no better than Dhawan

    Ask Rahane to open. We have Rohit down the order. We can bring Ashwin and attack Eng's left handed bastmen.

    Jadeja can be dropped for an extra pacer - but that's a gamble.

  • afzal501 on July 29, 2014, 6:52 GMT

    ASHWINNNNNN has he upset Dhoni or has he got problem with him, Aswin is a class spinner who will take wickets here, and he can bat as good as any batsmen Iam not saying he is better batsman than Rohit , but with Ashwin you get two options. The other problem I have with India selection is wh the don,t give chance to there pacers like Arun he can bowl 145 they keep picking similar type of bowlers 135kmp as I have said it before some fans have more intelligence than these team selectors. Pakistani fans go through same pain as Indian fans we have real fast bowler available but they are wasting away when they keep players like Gul who is past his best.

  • on July 29, 2014, 5:45 GMT

    Among the several lessons to be learnt fro mthis Test so far, is that our slip fiielding has to improve drastically. Shikar Dhavan is neither fit to be a slip fielder nor an opening batsman in Tests esp ion a pitch that helps bowlers. He neither has the technique or the temperament. A good opening stand is vital for later batsmen to build on. We di have Gautam Gambhir whose experience will help a great deal.

  • henchart on July 29, 2014, 4:49 GMT

    Trust Indians to let slip an advantage away .As pointed out by Nampally ,picking Rohit ahead of Ashwin was a big mistake .I wont lose sleep over Ishant not playing because he isnt consistent .Hope Kohli comes good for which he has to attack instead of trying to graft.Dont pin hopes on Bhuvanesh and Jadeja if Anderson is on song.Both of them are easy pickings for Anderson and Broad also if the pitch is helping the bowlers.England must enforce the follow on if opportunity arises.If Indians are to bat fourth ,there isnt going to be enough time to bundle them out and nor do hosts have a class spinner like Swann to exploit a day five pitch.All in all one result is not possible rather highly unlikely at Southampton,an Indian win.Can Indians draw the test?Let us see.........

  • rick.barboza on July 29, 2014, 3:41 GMT

    Dhoni's tactics are often lauded when we see success. But we need to remember how few we have won abroad. I think defensive mentality like bowling on the leg side gets us no where. If the pitch is bad, atleast make it difficult with attacking close-in fields, sharp bowlers and constant pressure. Best attacking options today for spinners - Amit Mishra (don't know what Dhoni has against him) and Ashwin (if he doesnt come good then Jadeja). For pace, certainly need to try Varun Aaron or Pandey. Shami is too erratic ... especially with a bad support team. Go with 5 bowlers to win a test - Mishra, Ashwin, Bhuvi, (Pankaj or Pandey or Varun), Shami

  • on July 29, 2014, 3:19 GMT

    Why pacers like Umesh out of squad and Varun carrying drinks,it's ridiculous.India needs bowlers who can bowl around 145 kmph consistently with good swing and bounce.Pankaj,Shami,Ishant,Ishwar and all other bowlers are just mediocre.Ishant got 7 wickets in last match since England gifted him but the aussies won't do any such favour for sure.If the amount of chances Ishant and Shami got would have been given to Umesh and varun,we would have lethal pacers by now.The so suggested Rishi dhawan and Stuart Binny won't help India's cause either.My team for 4th test is:Vijay,Pujara,Kohli,Rahane,Dhoni,Ashwin,Jadeja,Bhuvi,varun,Ishwar,Ishant,i.e 8 batsmen, 6 bowlers,3 all rounders.Plz consider jadeja and ashwin as batsman.Who cares about the spinners.If you can't produce and give chances to quality pacers now,forget the 2015 world cup.And about the dropped catches,I don't get why can't the slips and short legs stand closer.Dont complain about catches falling just ahead of you.

  • Sexysteven on July 29, 2014, 2:56 GMT

    As I said before the series I don't rate the two captains at all they get there tactics and field platings wrong more often then they get it right plus the fact groundsmen keep producing these crazy pitches flat slow and low it makes for boring cricket no wonder the bowlers from both sides are buggered doing all that work for little reward I'm surprised they ain't breaking down yet this can't be good having batsmen dominate without there techniques being tested that's not good cricket in my view

  • GRVJPR on July 29, 2014, 2:29 GMT

    One tough day and writer is ruling India out of the game. Thisi english bowling attack is toothless. Go and check how many teams they have been able to bowl out in last 1 and half years. A couple of partnership and this england bowling will be back to excuses like flat track etc.

  • kmpm on July 28, 2014, 23:40 GMT

    No Evolution from the captain; following the same old defensive tactics as soon as the Plan A failed. Inspiration has to come from within seems to be the mantra of Dhoni which in many team games works spordically. Nonchalance towards close by catches, zero confidence in certain players, non reactive team selection can lead to nothing but familiar and boring patches in the game. I wonder how much lifeless last game would have been had the short pitch ploy failed miserably. We shuffle cards when nothings working even in Rummy. Never ruffle the feathers Dhoni would become a great dealer in black jack!

  • on July 28, 2014, 21:27 GMT

    While India are certainly down and having to play catch up in this match, it's not all gloom and doom for them. It is a batting paradise, and all it needs for India to claw their way back into the match is a couple of centuries from two of their frontline batsmen. Vijay looks like he is in for a long stay, Pujara and Kohli are class, and let's not rule out major contributions from at least two of Rahane, Jadeja, Dhoni and Rohit Sharma. With Bhuvvi Kumar to belt a few runs. So it's too early to write off India, at least at this stage of the match. From what we have seen of the England bowling so far, apart from James Anderson their bowling is not very potent. Broad is off colour, and Chris Jordan is probably still trying to find his feet in Test cricket. Woakes may not be much of a threat, being the second change bowler. It will be fascinating to see how India cope up with the English bowling, until tea time tomorrow.

  • crindo77 on July 28, 2014, 21:02 GMT

    As long as MSD rules the roost, there will be more of the same. Someone who is poor at 5 day cricket can't be expected to win Tests abroad. and what is exactly Duncan Fletchers contribution as a coach in team selection or strategy planning? Does he actually have a say or is he a put-up or shut-up coach? Dhoni's Test prowess or the lack of it is well known. 3-1 TO England. Ah well, at least the memories of Lords will remain.

  • Nampally on July 28, 2014, 20:50 GMT

    Dhoni's tactics were disappointing. Defensive tactics of going with an extra batsman by excluding a bowler is a bad move. When India resort to such lack lustre tactics they become the losers. When India is 1-0 in the series, they needed to utilise the momentum of a very down hearted England & apply stranglehold. Instead Dhoni failed as a Leader once more. He needed a 4th bowler in Ashwin or Aaron - knowing that Kumar & Shami are not as fresh as in the First Test. Why on earth did he fail to include a bowler? Dhoni thinks in a strange illogical way! His XI selection always lacks justification. If India had the 4th fresh bowler, Kumar would have bowled much better. Dropped catch by Sir Jadeja was fatal. Bell's plumb LBW + Buttler's catch were both disallowed. These magnified Dhoni's selection blunders. Now India has an uphill task! Vijay, Kohli & Pujara & Rahane need 3 centuries between them to save India from defeat. India need big score in the first innings & bat 2 full days to draw.

  • SpaMaster on July 28, 2014, 20:43 GMT

    Oh come on, Dhoni's tactics with Jadeja on 1st day middle session was not aiming for draw. They were 140/1. Too early to think about draw. His ploy was to dry up the runs for the time being since the wickets were not coming anyway. If there is not much help from the pitch, then there is nothing wrong to try to keep the batsman quite and play on their ego to induce a mistake. He dried the runs and it was a tactic for that particular moment, not thinking 5 days ahead. In my view, it worked. In fact, Cook fell that way. Same with his reshuffling of bowlers in 2nd day 2nd session. It was one of the better sessions for India. I think they gave away 94 runs and picked up two wickets.

  • SpaMaster on July 28, 2014, 20:43 GMT

    Oh come on, Dhoni's tactics with Jadeja on 1st day middle session was not aiming for draw. They were 140/1. Too early to think about draw. His ploy was to dry up the runs for the time being since the wickets were not coming anyway. If there is not much help from the pitch, then there is nothing wrong to try to keep the batsman quite and play on their ego to induce a mistake. He dried the runs and it was a tactic for that particular moment, not thinking 5 days ahead. In my view, it worked. In fact, Cook fell that way. Same with his reshuffling of bowlers in 2nd day 2nd session. It was one of the better sessions for India. I think they gave away 94 runs and picked up two wickets.

  • Nampally on July 28, 2014, 20:50 GMT

    Dhoni's tactics were disappointing. Defensive tactics of going with an extra batsman by excluding a bowler is a bad move. When India resort to such lack lustre tactics they become the losers. When India is 1-0 in the series, they needed to utilise the momentum of a very down hearted England & apply stranglehold. Instead Dhoni failed as a Leader once more. He needed a 4th bowler in Ashwin or Aaron - knowing that Kumar & Shami are not as fresh as in the First Test. Why on earth did he fail to include a bowler? Dhoni thinks in a strange illogical way! His XI selection always lacks justification. If India had the 4th fresh bowler, Kumar would have bowled much better. Dropped catch by Sir Jadeja was fatal. Bell's plumb LBW + Buttler's catch were both disallowed. These magnified Dhoni's selection blunders. Now India has an uphill task! Vijay, Kohli & Pujara & Rahane need 3 centuries between them to save India from defeat. India need big score in the first innings & bat 2 full days to draw.

  • crindo77 on July 28, 2014, 21:02 GMT

    As long as MSD rules the roost, there will be more of the same. Someone who is poor at 5 day cricket can't be expected to win Tests abroad. and what is exactly Duncan Fletchers contribution as a coach in team selection or strategy planning? Does he actually have a say or is he a put-up or shut-up coach? Dhoni's Test prowess or the lack of it is well known. 3-1 TO England. Ah well, at least the memories of Lords will remain.

  • on July 28, 2014, 21:27 GMT

    While India are certainly down and having to play catch up in this match, it's not all gloom and doom for them. It is a batting paradise, and all it needs for India to claw their way back into the match is a couple of centuries from two of their frontline batsmen. Vijay looks like he is in for a long stay, Pujara and Kohli are class, and let's not rule out major contributions from at least two of Rahane, Jadeja, Dhoni and Rohit Sharma. With Bhuvvi Kumar to belt a few runs. So it's too early to write off India, at least at this stage of the match. From what we have seen of the England bowling so far, apart from James Anderson their bowling is not very potent. Broad is off colour, and Chris Jordan is probably still trying to find his feet in Test cricket. Woakes may not be much of a threat, being the second change bowler. It will be fascinating to see how India cope up with the English bowling, until tea time tomorrow.

  • kmpm on July 28, 2014, 23:40 GMT

    No Evolution from the captain; following the same old defensive tactics as soon as the Plan A failed. Inspiration has to come from within seems to be the mantra of Dhoni which in many team games works spordically. Nonchalance towards close by catches, zero confidence in certain players, non reactive team selection can lead to nothing but familiar and boring patches in the game. I wonder how much lifeless last game would have been had the short pitch ploy failed miserably. We shuffle cards when nothings working even in Rummy. Never ruffle the feathers Dhoni would become a great dealer in black jack!

  • GRVJPR on July 29, 2014, 2:29 GMT

    One tough day and writer is ruling India out of the game. Thisi english bowling attack is toothless. Go and check how many teams they have been able to bowl out in last 1 and half years. A couple of partnership and this england bowling will be back to excuses like flat track etc.

  • Sexysteven on July 29, 2014, 2:56 GMT

    As I said before the series I don't rate the two captains at all they get there tactics and field platings wrong more often then they get it right plus the fact groundsmen keep producing these crazy pitches flat slow and low it makes for boring cricket no wonder the bowlers from both sides are buggered doing all that work for little reward I'm surprised they ain't breaking down yet this can't be good having batsmen dominate without there techniques being tested that's not good cricket in my view

  • on July 29, 2014, 3:19 GMT

    Why pacers like Umesh out of squad and Varun carrying drinks,it's ridiculous.India needs bowlers who can bowl around 145 kmph consistently with good swing and bounce.Pankaj,Shami,Ishant,Ishwar and all other bowlers are just mediocre.Ishant got 7 wickets in last match since England gifted him but the aussies won't do any such favour for sure.If the amount of chances Ishant and Shami got would have been given to Umesh and varun,we would have lethal pacers by now.The so suggested Rishi dhawan and Stuart Binny won't help India's cause either.My team for 4th test is:Vijay,Pujara,Kohli,Rahane,Dhoni,Ashwin,Jadeja,Bhuvi,varun,Ishwar,Ishant,i.e 8 batsmen, 6 bowlers,3 all rounders.Plz consider jadeja and ashwin as batsman.Who cares about the spinners.If you can't produce and give chances to quality pacers now,forget the 2015 world cup.And about the dropped catches,I don't get why can't the slips and short legs stand closer.Dont complain about catches falling just ahead of you.

  • rick.barboza on July 29, 2014, 3:41 GMT

    Dhoni's tactics are often lauded when we see success. But we need to remember how few we have won abroad. I think defensive mentality like bowling on the leg side gets us no where. If the pitch is bad, atleast make it difficult with attacking close-in fields, sharp bowlers and constant pressure. Best attacking options today for spinners - Amit Mishra (don't know what Dhoni has against him) and Ashwin (if he doesnt come good then Jadeja). For pace, certainly need to try Varun Aaron or Pandey. Shami is too erratic ... especially with a bad support team. Go with 5 bowlers to win a test - Mishra, Ashwin, Bhuvi, (Pankaj or Pandey or Varun), Shami

  • henchart on July 29, 2014, 4:49 GMT

    Trust Indians to let slip an advantage away .As pointed out by Nampally ,picking Rohit ahead of Ashwin was a big mistake .I wont lose sleep over Ishant not playing because he isnt consistent .Hope Kohli comes good for which he has to attack instead of trying to graft.Dont pin hopes on Bhuvanesh and Jadeja if Anderson is on song.Both of them are easy pickings for Anderson and Broad also if the pitch is helping the bowlers.England must enforce the follow on if opportunity arises.If Indians are to bat fourth ,there isnt going to be enough time to bundle them out and nor do hosts have a class spinner like Swann to exploit a day five pitch.All in all one result is not possible rather highly unlikely at Southampton,an Indian win.Can Indians draw the test?Let us see.........