India vs Sri Lanka: Resolute lower order making a difference for Virat Kohli and Co.
Contributions from the lower order have been pivotal in Indian cricket team’s two big wins against Sri Lanka national cricket team in the ongoing Test seriesUpdated: Aug 10, 2017 19:56 IST
Six hundred runs in the first Test, 622 in the second game -- when a team piles up such scores, dominating the opposition is but natural. Indian cricket team’s first innings at the Sinhalese Sports Club ground was the sixth instance in their last nine Tests when had amassed 600-plus scores.
And while it puts the spotlight firmly on the top-order batsmen, a closer analysis reveals how contributions from the lower order have been pivotal. The top and middle-order is expected to get a team to 400-plus scores but to push it to 600 or more needs solid batting from the lower-orders as well. And when that happens, it deflates the opposition.
That was the reason Virat Kohli allowed his last pair to continue to play despite crossing the 600-run mark. The psychological blows inflicted as a result of those few overs reflected in Sri Lanka’s abject capitulation in the first innings when they were shot out for 183.
India’s fine run started in Tests started with their series win in Sri Lanka in 2015. But they raised their game to another level during the home series against England when India breached the 600-run mark for the first time in the third Test in Mumbai. From 364 for seven, India finished at 631, with No 9 Jayant Yadav scoring 104.
It heralded the beginning of a new front of attack for India where the lower-order grinded out opposition, rattling off three 600-plus totals --- 759/7 declared at Chennai with Ashwin (67) and Jadeja (51) getting half-centuries; 687/7 declared versus Bangladesh (Saha got an unbeaten hundred, Ashwin 34 and Jadeja 60 not out).
LANKA FEEL THE HEAT
With Sri Lanka deciding to roll out benign surfaces this series, Ashwin, Saha and Jadeja have hurt them badly. At the SSC, Ashwin got 54, Saha 67 and Jadeja 70 not out. At Galle, Ashwin got 47 and Hardik Pandya 50. On this tour even the tailenders are using the long handle to good effect, with Mohammed Shami hitting a 30-ball 30 at Galle and an eight-ball 19 at SSC.
It can be contested these feats were achieved in subcontinent conditions and that the real test for the lower order lies abroad, more specifically in South Africa, England and Australia. However, there’s proof that the lower-order batsmen can deliver under pressure and hostile conditions.
The India team management can take heart from their show in the thrilling series decider against Australia in Dharamsala, where Ashwin’s 30, Saha’s 31 and Jadeja’s 63 lifted the team from 221/6 to 332, helping them take a vital first-innings lead of 32 runs.
It’s not just about the runs but also about the rate at which they are scored. That allows Kohli enough time to get 20 wickets even when the opposition comes up with a strong challenge, like in the second innings of the last Test at the SSC.
“If you see, last nine Test matches, six times we’ve got 600 runs. That shows the hunger of the batsmen, they are waiting for an opportunity, there are lower order contributions as well,” Kohli had said after the win at the SSC.
“Guys who have both abilities are very rare to find. That’s where we think they’re very precious, especially in the longer format because they provide you with great balance.”
First Published: Aug 10, 2017 19:39 IST