Though India have swamped England to take a 1-0 lead, there are enough pointers from the two Tests played so far that this five-match series is far from over. England were outplayed at Vizag, but India would be making a fatal mistake if they believe they are far superior to their rivals when it comes to playing at home.
For instance, even in this Test, England have shown enough resilience and admirable patience to last more than 90 overs in the final innings on a wicket where playing must have been akin to the thought of living in hell. India realized that when, despite the cushioning of a 200 first innings score, they sunk swiftly on a breaking track, where the variable bounce was a greater threat than the turning ball. Take out Virat Kohli’s 81 from the Indian total, and it barely managed to cross 100.
Now imagine had India been batting last on this track. That will make you realise how crucial the toss is in these conditions. England lost the Test not in the second innings, but the manner in which they played their first innings. The sudden slump at the top pegged them so back that they had nothing left in the reserve to mount a fight-back. Try they did, in the field and even in the second innings, but by then the wicket had deteriorated so much that it is a marvel that they lasted more than a day defending a lost cause.
The significance of the toss can be gauged from the Rajkot Test, where it was India’s turn to come under intense pressure. Had Kohli not played an innings of exceptional skill and control, India would have lost that game. The reason being England’s bowling, which has tremendous depth in terms of the variety they possess. Their spinners led by Adil Rashid should only improve as the series progresses and though Chris Broad may miss the third Test, they have in Anderson a bowler who knows how to exploit the rough and abrasive Indian wickets.
I even think that man to man, this England batting is stronger than India’s, especially given the fact they bat so deep and have players like Ben Stokes and Jamie Bairstow batting in the middle.
They may have lost the second Test, but the amount of overs their batsmen have spent at the crease would only give them confidence that they can last in these conditions, provided they play on equal terms in the first innings. In India most of the matches are won and lost in the first innings. The team which takes the lead gets an iron grip on the match and no matter how much you try, it is almost impossible to catch up in the second innings.
That is why winning the toss and batting well in the first innings are the two most important factors which have a final bearing on the result of a match in India. England would be praying that Alistair Cook calls correctly in Mohali and if he does that it could become an interesting series.