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

  • Android on July 30, 2014, 4:15 GMT

    I am appreciating ECB That is what humanity wants thanku

  • ashok on July 29, 2014, 18:21 GMT

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

  • Android 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..

  • Android 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..

  • Dummy4 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.

  • Android 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..

  • SUMAN 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.

  • Dummy4 on July 29, 2014, 9:40 GMT

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

  • Dummy4 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.

  • Dummy4 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.