INDIA VS ENGLAND: 5 TALKING POINTS
S. SOORAJ | 9th August 2021
Ts rain brings an enthralling first test match at Trent Bridge to a disappointing end, it raises a lot of questions about conducting important cricketing events in England. We saw it in the 2019 World Cup, where we witnessed more than a few games being affected or even abandoned because of the weather.
What was touted to be an ‘English Summer’ saw showers all over the country as even the semi-finals of the World Cup was pushed to a reserve day.
The English weather was mercilessly unpredictable in the World Test Championship Final as well and the trend continued as India were involved yet again and this time, against the very own hosts. While the clash ended in a truce, there was enough action for us to muster up our talking points.
Here goes nothing.
Bumrah, Shami, Siraj and Thakur: One of India’s best pace attacks in a long time
Back in 2011, when India toured England, the English batsmen decimated the Indian bowling unit, strolling their way to a 4-0 victory. Even the greats like Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman couldn’t save India’s blushes as the bowlers were leaking runs like a broken tap.
Double hundreds were becoming standard for the English batsmen as Cook, Pietersen and Bell got to the celebrated 200-run mark.
Fast forward to 2021 and the Indian bowlers have managed to pick up all 20 wickets against England with ease. India went into the game with four pace bowlers- Bumrah, Shami, Siraj, and Thakur as each and every one of them was a class act.
Bumrah was back to his brilliant best with 9 wickets, while his compatriots were a thorn in England’s side. After all, this is the 2nd time that Indian pacers have taken all 20 wickets in a test match; the last this feat happened was against South Africa in 2018.
This is just another indicator of how the Indian pace attack has grown leaps and bounds in a matter of a few years.
While one could argue that England fielded a sub-par batting line-up, there is no denying the fact that Indian pace attack checked all the boxes- pace, swing, and bounce.
Joe Root or Bust continues to be England’s gameplan with the bat
Joe Root was awarded the Man of the Match in the first Test and deservedly so. He played a pair of spectacular innings of 76 and 109, keeping his team in the game and even giving them a shot at victory.
Root was as sturdy, yet sublime as ever in both innings, giving the Indian bowlers a headache while keeping the English ship sailing. However, his supporting act simply weren’t up to his tremendous standards as the 5th highest ranked Test batsman in the world had to be England’s sole saviour yet again.
Dominic Sibley, Zak Crawley and Rory Burns were synonymous with struggle, finding it impossible to get going against the Indian bowling unit. They haven’t been able to put decent scores on the board for a considerable amount of time right now and that’s after chances galore, courtesy of the ECB.
It goes without saying that 3 early wickets put pressure on the batting team and the English have made this a bit of a habit in recent times.
To make matters worse, the batsmen that follow Root at No.4 aren’t very convincing either. With Ben Stokes out, things have become much more difficult for England. Daniel Lawrence hasn’t proven himself as of yet while both Buttler and Bairstow are unable to replicate their limited-overs success in the red-ball format.
England must change up things and hand the reigns to the likes of Ben Foakes, Moeen Ali and Dawid Malan to name a few to ensure the plan isn’t just Joe Root or bust.
KL Rahul stamps his authority and his place as India’s Test opener
When both Shubman Gill and Mayank Agarwal were ruled out of the England series and it was confirmed that Prithvi Shaw won’t be traveling to England, we all knew that KL Rahul was going to open the innings for India.
While he hasn’t made the best impression as a Test opener yet, the Karnataka batsman passed his test in fine fashion. A brilliant delivery from Stuart Broad, dismissing him for 26 in the second innings doesn’t take away the elegance he put on show for us in the first innings.
KL put on a formidable display and scored a well-earned 84 that saw India take a comfortable first innings lead. Even though one innings doesn’t define a player, the skill and temperament Rahul showed us was splendid to witness.
While the wickets kept falling on the one end consistently, the Punjab Kings skipper held the fort on the other, keeping India in the game.
With all the other main opening options out, India can breathe a sigh of relief after this KL Rahul audition.
Jimmy Anderson: 39 years young
A fast bowler’s life is bound to be injury-ridden. We have seen some of the greatest quicks of our time suffering long-term injuries and having to wind their career up much earlier than they were supposed to. However, that certainly isn’t the case with James Anderson.
Anderson sure is 39 years young and is still pulling off world-class displays with the ball. He was on the top of his game, getting two of India’s most important batsmen- Pujara and Kohli out in back-to-back deliveries.
The way the ECB has managed Jimmy Anderson needs to be applauded. Never pressuring him with more game time than needed has proven to be a masterstroke in this long run.
And in the meantime, England was also able to build a World Cup winning limited overs team without the legend himself.
While the mismanagement of Jofra Archer, who was playing in almost every England game and numerous leagues around the world has resulted in him undergoing a severe injury, they have handled the Anderson situation with aplomb.
At 39 years old, James Anderson reached the 620-wicket mark to only be behind Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan as the highest wicket-taker in Test cricket.
A champion of champions.
It’s high time we address the Test struggles of Pujara, Kohli and Rahane
Have we entered an alternate universe? India’s bowling has become impeccable while their batting has been sketchy. Yes, we probably have.
India’s middle-order consists of Pujara, Kohli and Rahane- easily the country’s most valuable Test batsmen. However, they simply aren’t able to bring their A-game to the table consistently. And in the first test against England, the trio failed yet again.
Since 2020, the three of them have played around 10 tests and neither of them averages over 30. While Pujara and Kohli haven’t got a test hundred in over two years, Rahane has also been in a severe drought, barring his brilliant test century at the MCG against Australia last year.
While India managed to reach a decent score in the 1st innings, the chase in the 2nd innings laid on the shoulders of what has been an incredible trio of red-ball batsmen, barring the past few years.
One way or another, Pujara, Kohli, and Rahane need to find ways to contribute to the Indian side, and failing to do so will see this side lose some crucial games like the WTC final against the Kiwis. Since replacing such players is a tedious task, they need to get back to their best to see through the current England test series.