India vs England: If momentum is anything then India start favourites in Southampton
India have tried three different opening pairs in three Tests and while England have stuck with the same pair, the numbers produced by them aren’t painting a rosy picture.Updated: Aug 30, 2018 11:23 IST
The series was touted to be a heavyweight clash between two equally matched side and while the opening two games presented a slightly different story, the narrative seemed to have changed radically after the third Test. Indian batting stood up at Nottingham and the result went the visitor’s way. India had issues to address but the same was true for England. Let’s do a comparative analysis to assess where the two teams stand.
There’s very little to choose between the two sides. India have tried three different opening pairs in three Tests and while England have stuck with the same pair, the numbers produced by them aren’t painting a rosy picture. Alastair Cook is going through one of the worst phases of his illustrious career and Keaton Jennings is fighting hard for survival at the highest level. Both have looked unconvincing.
India’s latest opening pair of Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul has ignited hope of solving the opening riddle but it’s still far from a perfect solution. Dhawan has fought hard and Rahul has shown glimpses of his potential but both of them are yet to score individual fifties.
In the first two Tests, India’s middle order meant Virat Kohli, for batsmen on either side of him weren’t contributing significantly. Joe Root at three for England, despite the failures in the last two Tests, will pip India’s Cheteshwar Pujara for the post. Similarly, Ollie Pope is no contest for India’s number 4, Kohli.
At Number 5, Ajinkya Rahane has played only one knock of note and Jonny Bairstow for England has offered a little more. In fact, this is where, their lower order, England score over most teams in the world. Bairstow is followed by Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and, Moeen Ali who got the nod to play in Southampton.
This provides England the depth unheard-unseen of in recent times across the cricketing globe. India, on the other hand, has Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya and Ravi Ashwin to follow Rahane. But as we found out in the first innings of the third Test, depth doesn’t always guarantee loads of runs.
In 2014, the key difference between the two sides was England out-spinning India over the course of five Tests. Moeen Ali took wickets in almost all games, which included a lot of top-order Indian batsmen. That’s not the case in 2018, for Ashwin has already proved that he’s a lot more effective than Adil Rashid and even if Moeen were to bowl in Southampton, it’s quite likely that Indian spinners will be more effective.
If we were to go by only pedigree and past performances, English bowling attack will look miles ahead of their Indian counterparts. But if you were to look at how the two bowling attacks fared in Nottingham, you’ll be forced to put the Indian pace quartet slightly ahead.
English attack has a little more discipline and sharpness but Indian attack is a little more varied. The addition of Jasprit Bumrah and Ashwin giving regular breathers to the pace department has brought the two attacks closer.
If momentum is a real thing in sport, India should start the third Test as favourites. But if momentum could sway the eventual outcome, England had no business of losing the third Test. By now, it’s become quite apparent that both teams have their weaknesses and the team that’s able to hide them better is the one ending up on the right side of the result.
(The writer is a former Test batsman and his views are personal)
First Published: Aug 30, 2018 11:11 IST