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India vs England: What about the number one tag?

James Anderson and Stuart Broad combined to take eight wickets as England crushed India by an innings and 159 runs on the fourth day of the second Test to take 2-0 lead in the five-match series at the Lord’s Cricket Ground on Sunday.

cricket Updated: Aug 18, 2018 15:22 IST
Manish K Pathak
Manish K Pathak
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
India vs England,Virat Kohli,James Anderson
India's Virat Kohli reacts before receiving treatment from medical staff for a back injury during the second Test match against England.(Action Images via Reuters)

There was a cumulative sigh, one that rang through barren terrains of hope, one that was meandering along with no real purpose, one that was waddling along more in hope. That sigh, and then a hush, dilapidated ambitions, fractured egos, apprehensions staring at the face, and defeat. Scratch that… pounding!

The number one side in the world, bundled out in less than 100 overs across both the innings, those spitting drops of rain, a moist surface, a slippery slope, and a free fall. Collapse. Scratch that again…surrender!

Why is Test cricket so brutal, what is it about this format that it strips you naked and forces you to stand exposed. An entire script, sprinkled with intense episodes, and for Virat Kohli, these episodes were haunting, it slapped his team hard, it slapped the number one team by an innings and 159 runs.

It rained the first day, rained again, for almost the entire of the second day, rained again on the fourth day, enough time for England to saunter in and shunt India on the mat and walk all over them. Ages ago, under the murky clouds, Joe Root won the toss and elected to bowl first. Kohli wanted to do it too, but he was asked to prove the mettle of his team. Instead, they never turned up.

READ:  ‘We deserved to lose’ - Virat Kohli after Lord’s Test thrashing

James Anderson did; he had clouds for company, he had the Dukes as his aide, he had the famous Lord’s buzz to keep him going and he came, picked out the first three even before the ring of the bell had subsided. Virat Kohli was stranded, literally, Pujara ran towards him, never turned back, and in the madness of six overs, India had ceded ground.

Bang, the first episode was over! Yes, the conditions were extremely tough; yes, Lord’s and the famous slope facilitates swing bowlers to hurl grenades; yes, India were unlucky to be batting first, all agreed, but when was Test cricket easy?

Put your head down and grind it out, not waft that bat and nick it behind. It all happened, it was all a blur, Kohli lifted his bat in the long room when they were forced to leave the field when the rain first arrived. But, he never lifted his head when he nicked Chris Woakes behind. Apprehension does strange things - it becomes claustrophobic, India were cornered, and they melted. 35 overs… that’s all that they lasted for. Was it so tough? Yes, it was (according to Cricviz, the conditions were exceptional. The swing movement was twice the average. It was equivalent of Virat Kohli walking out with two bats taped together), but what about the number 1 tag?

”I think that if we bowled like that today, with those conditions, we’d bowl most teams in the world out - because I think we were that good,” Anderson said after he bullied the much-vaunted Indian batting. England are not number one, they will keep the banana skin, step back and then laugh when you slip on it. And boy, did they have a ball or what!

England's players react to the result of the review for the wicket of India's captain Virat Kohli. (AFP)

107 runs in the first innings; you do not win Test matches in one session but you sure lose them. Thus began the process of chasing the tail; they came close before lunch on Day 3 when England were four wickets down but the hope quickly winked and sped away. Ahh, and the sun followed suit, shining in all glory, and in no time, the Indian bowling wilted.

“Nothing happened. That was the problem. As a bowling unit we tried, but all of a sudden the ball stopped swinging. And Woakes and Bairstow took the game away,” Pandya quipped. Sounds like an excuse, doesn’t it? Except it wasn’t. When the sun is out, Lord’s become an absolute belter to bat on. Another episode began and another bout of nightmare for captain Kohli.

England sped away to a lead of more than 200 when the day ended. And then India batted and soon enough, clouds coerced the sun to come back in. Crash…bang…wallop! Test cricket is so much like an opera, you are hooked one second, fiddle around the next. Lord’s was nothing like it… England kept pounding it, India kept fiddling around.

Yes, it was played in whites with a red Dukes ball, but it was no Test, it was a mockery, and there is no fun in watching champions being shred to pieces. This is not an isolated incident. We did not even blink this time, the rain came and went, India were reduced to 66 for 6. The trends should force the management to wake up and sort things out. A stroke here, an edge there, a drive here, a miscued slash there and they crawled away to 130 when the final nail was wedged in.

Innings and 159 runs. The mess lasted for 170.3 overs when that sigh of relief came through.

READ: Virat Kohli urges batsmen to pull their socks up after Lord’s hiding

In the last eight innings played in England, this Indian batting order has scored runs with an average of 15.48. Clearly, there is a flaw. Clearly, there is something wrong which is not being accepted. Being boisterous is fun, but then sit in a corner and when that facade is eroded, self-introspection is even more fun.

Improvements creep in.These are International batsmen, they have worked hard to reach here, they know their games and they will be hurt. They were stripped naked on the hallowed turf, how can they not be hurt?Accountability goes a long way in identifying the chinks, Kohli got the ball rolling by raising his hand and admitting he got the team combination wrong.

The captain accepted his mistake, the team should just follow him. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope”.It is just an extrapolation of life, this beautiful monster known as Test cricket; it will give you a chance to stare back at reversals and do something about it. And that’s hope… and that is India’s chance.They are, after all, the number one side in the world!

First Published: Aug 13, 2018 13:00 IST