England Vs India: Into The Fourth Test Indian Batting Yet To Click!

The incredible Lord’s victory in the second Test that gave India 1-0 lead in the five-match Test Series against England notwithstanding, the much talked-about Indian batting depth has not delivered till the second day of the Fourth Test. It’s essentially the absolute failure of the middle order batsmen that let the great Indian fast bowling performances down, again and again. The non-performing and inconsistent batsmen are easily identified as the captain Virat Kohli himself who has managed to register just two fifties so far which were in the second innings of the third Test and on the first day of the fourth test, and giving him company in this discomfiture are Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant. Ironically, the Indian bowlers are forced to bat well too to give India some kind of respectability, again and again.


In the first Test India lost a huge opportunity of winning after Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami devastated England for a mere 183 in the first innings as despite the good start provided by the Indian openers Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul the middle order failed to maintain the momentum depriving the team of taking a lead of at least 150 runs, and it was the spinner Ravindra Jadeja who hit a half-century and 28 by never-known-to-be-a-batsman Bumrah to ensure a lead of just 95 runs with the team all-out for 278. Ollie Robinson and veteran James Anderson uprooted the Indian batting. Thanks to the ever-consistent England skipper Joe Root (109 runs) his team made 303 runs in the second innings setting India a target of 209 runs which could still have been overhauled had the rains not washed away the fifth day’s play. But the point is if the Indian middle order delivered the visitors could have sealed the match before the rains came down. India were sitting pretty at 51/1 at the end of the fourth day with the match heading for an exciting finish, and in the England second innings Bumrah and Shami again captured most of the wickets.


In the second Test the hosts were with a big chance of win after they overhauled India’s highest total of the Series 364 (126 by KL Rahul, 83 by Rohit, 42 by Kohli, 40 by spinner Jadeja and 37 by Pant, his highest so far), making 391 thanks to a magnificent 180 by Joe Root (57 by Bairstow and 49 by Rory Burns) and having India reeling at 175/6 in the second innings. But then came the rollicking partnership between Shami (56) and Bumrah (34) after a useful 16 by Ishant Sharma, and India declaring at 298/8 set a stiff target of 272 runs to win for England on the last day. And that incredible win by 151 runs came in the dying moments of the match with Mohammed Siraj taking 4 scalps, Bumrah 3 and Shami 1 and England getting all-out for 120 runs. The heroes of the match clearly are Shami and Bumrah both in batting and bowling and Siraj, except for a good partnership between Pujara (45) and Rahane (61, his solitary half-century) in the Indian second innings.


After that incredible win Team India got all out for one of their lowest first innings totals of 78 after being put into bat by an aggressive England in the third Test at Headingley. It was all over for India in the very first day of the match and had to face the humiliation of an innings defeat. England took full advantage of India’s 78 by hauling up a huge total of 432 thanks to the third century by Joe Root (121), 70 by David Malan and the new opening pair Burns-Hameed giving an opening partnership of 135 runs. In India’s second innings Rohit made 59, Pujara 91 and Kohli making his first half-century at 55, but nobody could stick on to avoid an innings defeat. England levelled the Series at 1-1 now.


In the fourth Test at the Oval India, being put into bat, displayed another dismal batting failure folding up for 191 with Kohli’s second half-century and 57 by fast bowler Shardul Thakur who replaced an unfit Shami, and only the latter performance could only lend some respectability to the Indian total. England started badly losing early wickets and Root not performing well for the first time, but Ollie Pope making 81, Bairshow 37 and Moeen Ali making 35 stabilized the innings somewhat managing to ensure a lead, and the hosts were finally all out for 290 building up a significant lead of 99 runs till the last reports came in. This match too is more or less evenly poised at the moment, slightly favoring England. But everything depends how India bat in the second innings, first to clear the deficit of 99 without losing wickets. Unfortunately, class opener KL Rahul who managed to make it only after team management ran out of options nearly gave up his class after the second Test.


England has been making smart moves all the time with new replacements both in batting and bowling, and every time a new fast bowler was introduced the Indian batting faltered invariably. India must get its middle order in action immediately if they still entertain any hope of winning the Series, being the Australia-beaters in Australia just a little time before. However, that time Rahane led the team wonderfully well as Kohli went home for the birth of his first child. in this fourth Test India is sorely missing the services of Mohammed Shami, although his replacement Umesh Yadav got into the wickets. Kohli’s tactic of keeping Ravichandran Ashwin, India’s best spinner at the moment, consistently out of all the matches, particularly at the somewhat spinning track at Headingley, Leeds.


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