Sporting pitch, opening gambit to pile more misery on England

  • Sanjjeev K. Samyal, Hindustan Times, Southampton
  • Updated: Jul 31, 2014 12:35 IST

Lord’s has set the template for an ideal playing surface. India and England may not possess the best line-ups in the world, yet both showed plenty of resilience and character to handle the challenging conditions in the second Test.

It was a gripping Test at London, mainly because the players were forced to dig deep into their reserves. By the looks of it, the square at Southampton should be good for more of the same brand of cricket. On Wednesday, the centre-wicket at the Rose Bowl looked green enough to excite the men with mettle.

“The wicket here is good for batting: 350-400 have been the average innings runs in county games. There’s good movement on offer too, especially under cloud cover,” was the view of a seasoned stadium hand. “It should play similar to the Lord’s pitch.”

Good weather
Curators depend on the weather for rolling out a sporting track. The forecast is pretty much good for the game. On Sunday, the first day of the third Test, may be there would be mild showers. Whatever the conditions, it’s pretty certain that the team with better game plan will have the edge.

The most fascinating aspect of the Lord’s Test was how Anderson and Co were caught by surprise by the resoluteness shown by the India batsmen, especially the unheralded names. Murali Vijay would have featured in passing in their planning for the batsmen. But he has proved to be the difference between the two teams.

Having set the tone for the series with 146 at Trent Bridge, the opener made invaluable contributions each time he batted. If he’s not got the runs, there’s been time spent at the crease to neutralise the threat of the new ball.

Unrecognisable from the IPL basher who hammered a 46-ball hundred, the 30-year-old Vijay seems to have discovered a thrill in leaving the ball. England know he’s the glue that binds this India batting line-up.

For someone known to smash every ball, his approach to batting has seen a refreshing change. The first thing he mentioned after his 95 at Lord’s was that he wanted to stay till the second new ball.

The Tamil Nadu player has had a few good innings in his Test career, but it’s this tour which is turning out to be the defining one. In the four innings so far, he has gone from playing the supporting cast to taking the lead role with an aggregate of 317 runs.

All credit to Vijay for laying the platform for the latter batsmen to come and counterattack. He’s soaked up the early pressure. In the third and fourth spells, any bowling attack is not the same force.

At Lord’s, Ajinkya Rahane came after his hundred and first thanked the top-order for their role in setting up the platform for him to play freely. In the second innings, Ravindra Jadeja and Bhuvneshwar Kumar benefitted from Vijay’s grind.

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