Matches (12)
IPL (2)
SA v SL [W] (1)
PAK v WI [W] (1)
ACC Premier Cup (4)
Women's QUAD (2)
Pakistan vs New Zealand (1)
IRE-W vs THAI-W (1)

Kohli's new template may not be ditched yet

Most signs point towards India fielding four fast bowlers + Jadeja again

Nagraj Gollapudi
Who was the last spinner to get a Player of the Match in a men's Test at Lord's for his bowling performance? He is more than likely to play in the second Test.
It was in 2017, when Moeen Ali finished with a match haul of 10 for 112 and a first-innings 87 to hand England a 221-run win. That year, spinners enjoyed their best haul in 50 years at Lord's, picking 18 of the 20 wickets in that Test.
Since then, though, spinners have picked just 12 wickets in half a dozen Tests at this storied venue. Seven of those came in the drawn second Test of the 2019 Ashes. From 2018, fast bowlers have picked 143 wickets while spinners have accounted for only 11 in five Tests. If you extend that to all first-class cricket in the same period, the fast bowlers have picked 631 wickets while spin has accounted for 62 in 22 matches. Only once has a spinner picked a five-for post-July at Lord's in first-class cricket in the last decade.
Now then, will India be tempted to bring in R Ashwin to replace the injured Shardul Thakur? After the first Test was drawn, Virat Kohli said that a five-man bowling attack, with Jadeja and Thakur as the bowling allrounders, provided the right balance, and that it would be the likely template for the remainder of the series. But with Thakur out to a hamstring strain, how will India retain that balance Kohli was talking about?
As a bowling allrounder, Ashwin is the best India have. As a lower-order batter he offers a lot of promise. And then there is his aura of being one of the greatest Test spinners, which can be intimidating against a less-experienced batting like England barring Joe Root. Also with Ashwin, India retain the batting depth in the lower order which is crucial when their lower order remains brittle. This is after accounting for the resilience of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj in India taking a significant 95-run lead In the first innings at Trent Bridge.
Will India still be tempted to play two spinners at a venue where spin has played a holding and receding role for such a long time? If you heard Kohli at the pre-match press conference, you would't be faulted for believing Ashwin was unlikely to play.
According to Kohli, the batting order India fielded at Trent Bridge was the "strongest". The opening pair of Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul got India off to solid starts in both innings while Rishabh Pant and Ravindra Jadeja marshalled the lower order to somewhat cover up for the failures of Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane in the first innings.
"The good thing is Jadeja has got runs in the first game already, so he will go into the second game confident," Kohli said when asked if they would play Ashwin or thinking about a like-for-like replacement for Thakur. "That already makes our batting a bit deeper, the lower order contributed with the bat as well. Yeah, Shardul brings in more batting ability, but having said that, from the batting point of view we are well placed because Pujara, Jinks, myself, we did not score too many.
"So every game is an opportunity for the other batters to step up as well. Rohit and KL played really well. So we are very comfortable where we are placed as a batting unit. And we don't feel that we might be a batsman short if Shardul doesn't play. For us, yes, it is about finding that perfect balance, but if someone like Shardul is not available then we definitely will think first how to pick up 20 wickets and not try to plug in another guy who can give us some runs with the bat. We feel very comfortable how the first Test went."
Does that open the door for a fourth fast bowler again, one of Ishant Sharma or Umesh Yadav? The Nottingham Test along with Perth and Johannesburg in 2018 and Brisbane earlier this year are four instance where India have played at least four fast bowlers in the last four years. India won the final Test of the South Africa trip, but had both Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Hardik Pandya in the pace quintet. They lost the second Test of the 2018-19 Australia tour on a WACA pitch where Nathan Lyon turned the match with eight-wicket haul. On that occasion, India played four fast bowlers and part-time spinners in Hanuma Vihari and M Vijay.
Not just the bowlers, even the bowling plans, Kohli said are vastly different three years later. And so he remains confident if India were field four fast men at Lord's.
"In a four-bowler combination you have figure on the day which bowlers are most likely to give you breakthroughs and which are the ones that are going to contain," he said. "So accordingly you put them in priority.The guy who is most likely to contain then comes in and bowls spells, which don't leak you runs so that the others can come back and get you those breakthroughs again."
Kohli also disagreed with a query about whether playing four fast bowlers would mean the fourth seamer could potentially be under-bowled.
"We definitely like playing in that kind of template and we have never felt whenever we have played four bowlers we have under-bowled anyone," he said. "We have actually felt very, very balanced because we are constantly looking to create pressure and take wickets."  So should we interpret all what Kohli is saying is India are leaning towards playing four fast bowlers and Jadeja? Possibly.
By the way: which was the last team to play two spinners in a Lords' Test? Hint: it was overcast and the team hurt itself grievously in the foot.

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo