How England's slips in the slips let the pressure on India drop

Alastair Cook's dropped catch handed Hardik Pandya a second life Getty Images

Day One: England are in a strong position, 216 for 3, with Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow at the crease and ready to turn the screw. A run-out leads to a collapse and India are back in the Test.

Day Two: England are in a strong position, they have taken five wickets and India have only posted 100 runs. Sam Curran and Ben Stokes are hooping the ball around while James Anderson is tangoing with Virat Kohli in a dance that is living up to all the hype that preceded this match, with edges and near-misses eliciting appreciative oohs and aahs.

The screw, tightening with every delivery, suddenly spins loose within the space of two balls. Anderson draws the edge from Kohli, the ball flies to Dawid Malan at second slip and bounces out of his fingers. The anguish on Anderson's face is mirrored by his team-mates.

One ball later, from the other end, Stokes fires the ball in, it grazes the edge of Pandya's bat and this time wobbles to Alastair Cook at first slip, who has no more success holding it than Malan.

And India are back in the Test.

Drops happen in cricket, of course. But some are more costly than others. On the opening day of the Test, Ajinkya Rahane put down Keaton Jennings while Dinesh Karthik couldn't hold on to a chance offered by Sam Curran. While Curran didn't add any further runs, Jennings made another 33 after he was given a second life.

England, however, paid a much bigger price for their fielding errors. It cost them 150 runs in real terms, which would be significant on its own. But as Kohli - on his third life after Malan spilled another chance to dismiss the India captain off the bowling of Stokes - superbly farmed the strike while batting with the tail, each extra run struck like the lash of a whip, punishing England as their dominance was eroded.

In the past two years England have been presented with 319 chances in Test matches, of which they have held 245 and dropped 74. In other words, they drop around one in four chances. In the slips and gully areas, where they have put down 39 chances, the percentage is slightly worse. By comparison, the better fielding teams in that period - Australia and South Africa - drop around 15 percent of their chances, which is closer to one in seven.

Cook has fared the worst of England's slips fielders, taking 28 catches but dropping 11. Again, for the sake of comparison, in the same period Steven Smith has completed 47 catches and dropped 10. Stokes has put down seven chances in the slips and at gully, Joe Root's tally is six while Malan's double at Edgbaston takes him to a total of five.

As always, numbers only tell part of the story and the butterfly effect of those moments is yet to be fully revealed. If England go on to win the first Test their importance will be softened.

But when something keeps happening it becomes harder to dismiss as an aberration. If India go one-nil up after being on the ropes twice in the opening two days of the series, it won't be a mic-drop under the spotlight.