They have pitched it full, turning and twisting the batsmen with late swing. When needed, they have changed tactics and pulled the length back, targeting the batsmen with chin music. The India bowlers have punched above their weight in the first two Tests, outperforming England’s lions in their den.
At the start of the series, James Anderson and Stuart Broad were expected to be stars of the show. After two games, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami have stolen the thunder.
The Lord’s wicket was prepared keeping in mind the home team’s strength. It was the India bowlers who made better use of the green carpet.
The new ball is the most potent weapon here. On the final day, MS Dhoni didn’t feel the need to use it. Ishant wreaked havoc with an 80-over-old ball.
Dhoni’s style of attack is clear. With the new ball, he attacks with Bhuvneshwar, and Ishant is his main weapon with the old ball.
Ishant set the tone for the series at Trent Bridge. On a flat deck, he generated sharp seam movement and landed the ball in the danger zone. Bhuvneshwar was the ideal foil with his old-fashioned seam bowling.
Usually, his lack of pace is a handicap on unresponsive wickets. But if there is even some nip in the air, Bhuvneshwar comes alive with devastating effect. At Trent Bridge, he bowled with such control and variation as if he had a string tied to the ball. England were rattled, only a last-wicket partnership saving them the blushes in the first Test. On a green turf at Lord’s, he was almost unplayable, the batsmen bamboozled by his banana swing.
One reason for him being so effective against the English top order is that most of their batsmen have shown a tendency to sit back in the crease. It’s an advantage for the bowler who likes to pitch it up because it’s the front-foot play which is the key to killing swing.
Shami has bowled within himself, limiting his role to providing back-up support and chipping in with crucial breakthroughs. On drier wickets, the team will be banking on the Bengal seamer to lead the attack, for his prowess with reverse swing.
The final nail
The ability to finish off games was the main concern of this young team. Against South Africa, in Johannesburg at the end of 2013, India were in a powerful position going into the final day. To their disappointment, Ishant and Shami turned up flat. Two months later, the script was repeated in New Zealand.
It forced the think tank to add a fifth bowler in the eleven. Stuart Binny’s role as the fifth member wasn’t of any real help. When it mattered, on the fifth day at Lord’s, he wasn’t bowled at all.
Ishant proved more than capable, proving he had added that extra quality to his armoury.
The England supporters are finding it hard to fathom how Anderson and Broad have been outperformed. They have proven records and a mastery of these conditions. However, in this series they have been concentrating on hitting the deck more.
Nothing symbolises their frustration more than how helpless and clueless they looked on the fourth afternoon against the India lower order. It was the knockout punch.