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HindustanTimes Sat,27 Dec 2014

Cricket

Day 3: No fight or gameplan, a mountain to climb for India
Sanjjeev K Samyal, Hindustan Times
Southampton, July 29, 2014
First Published: 15:51 IST(29/7/2014)
Last Updated: 12:39 IST(31/7/2014)

There's a thin line between confidence and cockiness. Batting with the air of prima donnas, the India batsmen put up a shoddy display to hand the advantage to England in the third Test on Tuesday.

Showing poor cricketing acumen, they lost ground rapidly on the third day. At 323 for eight, India trail by 246 runs and need 47 runs to avoid the follow-on.

Captain MS Dhoni was waging a lone battle on 50. With two days left, England have enough time on their hands to set India an imposing target and then go for the kill.

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Mahendra Singh Dhoni plays a shot during the third day's play in the third Test match between England and India in Southampton on July 29, 2014. (AFP Photo)

India have themselves to blame. In perfect conditions for batting, none showed the application needed to anchor the innings when up against the massive total of 569.

On this turf, it was criminal to get your eye in and then throw it away. It was in contrast to how England batted, whoever got a start, made it big. For India, all except Shikhar Dhawan played more than 50 balls each and frittered it away.

Murali Vijay made 35 (90 balls); Cheteshwar Pujara 24 (52 balls), Virat Kohli 39 (75 balls), Ajinkya Rahane 54 (113 balls), Rohit Sharma 28 (61 balls) and Ravindra Jadeja 31 (52 balls).

MUDDLED APPROACH

The whole approach was confusing. Either they paid the price for being too defensive or being too aggressive. Vijay and Pujara were out trying to leave the ball. Rohit and Rahane went to the other extreme, holing out trying to go after spinner Moeen Ali.

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Ajinkya Rahane walks back to the pavilion after being caught out for 54 runs on the third day of the third Test match between England and India in Southampton. (AFP Photo)

All the senior players in the England team stood up and delivered. In bowling, it was again James Anderson and Stuart Broad who made the inroads. With India under pressure, it was an ideal stage for the batting mainstays - Kohli and Pujara - to make a statement. However, to the disappointment of the Indian supporters, their lean run continued.

Like in the Lord's first innings, Kohli started fluently. But in conditions where the ball does something, you are better off leaving those you can. Kohli was all the time eager to go on the front foot and it was just a matter of time before Anderson baited him just outside off-stump with a ball which moved just a shade to take the edge.

Pujara's natural style is to get his eye in and then go for shots. Here, the second part of his game plan never materialised. Again on Tuesday, he did all the hard work but when it was time to shift gears, England got him. Pujara failed to get out of the way off a Broad bouncer which kept following him and took his gloves on way to the 'keeper.

WASTED CHANCE

The situation was tailor-made for Rohit, getting his first break of the series. The pace bowlers were in their third and fourth spells when he joined Mumbai teammate Rahane. His team needed a big partnership. The duo had no problem getting into rhythm and a much-needed partnership looked like developing.

Rohit brought up the 50-partnership with a stylish four, his first, using his feet and smashing Moeen to the straight fence. Soon, Rahane reached his half-century with a single to mid-on (92 balls, five fours).

But to the shock of the visitors' dressing room, both had a brain freeze. Of all the people, they gifted their wickets to the part-time spinner, leaving India reeling. Rohit holed out the offie to midoff, ending the 74-run partnership.

For all his talent, Rohit is prone to making silly errors and it was inexcusable. It was just five minutes to go for tea and the context of the match called for discretion. And Moeen couldn't believe his luck when immediately after tea, Rahane miscued a pull. It was rank bad cricket.


Commentary, India 1st Innings



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