India vs England: Virat Kohli’s men hit the ground running ahead of Southampton Test
After spending a few days in London to savour that success which helped cut the series lead to 1-2, Virat Kohli and his team arrived in Southampton on Monday afternoon and straightaway hit the nets, with the team hotel at the other end of town overlooking the Southampton harbour.Updated: Aug 27, 2018 21:38 IST
A chilly breeze blew across the Ageas Bowl as the Indian team returned to training on Monday, the first time since they completed a crushing win over England in the third Test at Trent Bridge.
After spending a few days in London to savour that success which helped narrow the series lead to 1-2, Virat Kohli and his team arrived in Southampton on Monday afternoon and straightaway hit the nets, with the team hotel at the other end of town overlooking the Southampton harbour.
The focus over the past week has been on the two new additions-- U-19 World Cup-winning skipper Prithvi Shaw and Hanuma Vihari. The uncapped players were first put through the paces inside the Ageas Bowl, now called Rose Bowl, in a fielding drill.
Besides Shaw and Vihari, Jasprit Bumrah — who took five wickets in the second innings at Trent Bridge — and Karun Nair were part of the fielding drills conducted by R Sridhar, the fielding coach. Off-spinner R Ashwin, who struggled with an adductor muscle injury in the third Test, still looked some distance from being fully fit.
He did not strain too much. He first kept jogging between two blue cones places some 30 metres apart as physical trainer Shankar Basu monitored. He did not bowl, but batting against throw downs.
The top four batsmen hit the nets first. Openers Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul raised half-century partnerships in both innings which proved vital, but they still need to find their best form.
Neither has managed a fifty in six innings and that will be the next step ahead in India’s bid to get the top order in good condition.
The 18-year-old Shaw looked in excellent nick when he batted in tandem with Vihari, although there was extra bounce and some deliveries struck close to the splice of the bat as he played in defence.
Shaw, who picks up the bat with a flourish, then listened intently as coach Ravi Shastri explained the finer points of tackling the English conditions to both the newcomers.
India hold the momentum as they prepare for the fourth Test. However, England will be at home as it was once again overcast. Though Southampton had experienced hot weather, damp conditions have followed both the teams in this series and it rained in this southern coastal town on Sunday.
India have played in Southampton only once, on the 2014 tour. They lost by 266 runs with James Anderson claiming seven wickets with his swing bowling to be named Man-of-the-Match.
The other player England may look to play this time is off-spin all-rounder Moeen Ali, after he scored a double century and took eight wickets in Worcestershire’s win over Yorkshire in a first-class County game. In 2014, Moeen did better than Anderson, claiming eight wickets, including six in the second innings.
With two days available, India will hope Ashwin regains fitness to be available for selection, though the pitch appeared that it would again favour pace and swing, especially if conditions remain overcast.
First Published: Aug 27, 2018 21:38 IST