Picking up tail-ender wickets – India’s another woe

Picking up tail-ender wickets – India’s another woe

On the Second day of the fifth Test, India in rather bizarre fashion gave the momentum back to England. The bowlers after reducing England to 198/7 at stumps on Day 1, let them add 134 more runs on Saturday. Stuart Broad and Jos Buttler’s 98 run partnership for the 9th wicket meant England finished with 332 runs on the board.

Not for the first time in the series have Indian bowlers struggled to pick the tail-ending wickets. The same problem persisted at Trent Bridge and Southampton.

Indian bowlers bowled with discipline and built pressure on the English batsmen on Day one. They reduced the English side from 123/1 to 198/7 in no time. But on Saturday morning, the bowlers squandered away runs. They lacked discipline in line and length, especially against Broad. The pitch map of bowlers against Broad showed a lack of a plan for the tail-ender. The dots on the pitch map indicating the ball pitching are scattered all over the pitch.

So the question remains – Did the team management chalk out a plan for the tailenders or was the idea just to keep bowling and hope for the batsmen to fold? Because the bowlers lacked rhythm and a proper tactical plan to dismiss the tailenders.

The field setting against the tailenders also said a story. Virat Kohli set a defensive field at the start of day two, two fielders at slip for Broad and Buttler. In most occasions, when tailenders bat, captains choose to set more close-in fielders, trying to mount pressure on the batsmen, hoping that they would fold. But with a defensive field that Kohli set, it is easy, even for tail-enders to look for the ones and twos when most fielders are manning the rope. The pitch map for Broad shows that he scored most with singles and twos.

With Broad and Buttler on the crease, the body language of the bowlers visibly changed. They looked tired and haggard. The four-bowler tactic doesn’t seem to work for India. They need five bowlers to be able to rotate the bowlers more effectively. Kohli dropped all-rounder Hardik Pandya and went with debutante Hanuma Vihari who only got one over to bowl.

Jasprit Bumrah expressed that they failed to execute their plans against tailenders and felt an extra bowler would have allowed some rest to the bowlers. On being asked if he missed a fifth bowler at the post-match press conference, he said, “I don’t know about team selection. That’s a question for the management.
“When you have an extra bowler, that gives you some cushion while bowling. With four bowlers you tend to bowl more overs because then you have to come back quickly (to bowl).

“That was the only difference I felt, otherwise we tried our best, we bowled our hearts out, we bowled a lot of overs. An extra bowler sometimes gives you enough rest.”

Prithvi Shaw and Hanuma Vihari receive maiden India test call-up

Prithvi Shaw and Hanuma Vihari receive maiden India test call-up

Mumbai prodigy Prithvi Shaw and Andhra all-rounder Hanuma Vihari received their maiden call-up to the Indian test side. The All- India Selection Committee met in Nottingham after the third test to pick the Test squad for the fourth and fifth test against England.

Opener Murali Vijay and leg-spinner Kuldeep Yadav faced the axe for the last two tests. Vijay got out for 2 at Lord’s and scored 20 and 6 in the second test at Birmingham. Chinaman Kuldeep made way for the selection of another batsman. The seamer-friendly pitches of England negate the requirement of a third spinner.

Prithvi Shaw, the captain of the U-19 World Cup winning team has been rewarded for his consistent performances in first-class cricket. After a successful World Cup stint, he has been a regular in India A squad. The Mumbai batsman has piled up 1418 runs in 14 first class games with seven centuries with two of those on English soil. His performance in recent India A tour of England would have titled the weight in favour of his inclusion.

Hanuma Vihari, also part of U-19 World Cup winning team in 2012 has been a consistent scorer in the Ranji seasons and in recent India A games. VIhari has an average of 60 in 63 first-class games and 15 centuries. In the recent tour of India A to England, Vihari scored 147 against West Indies A in a four-day test. Prithvi Shaw scored 188 in the same game.

Vihari scored 58 and 148 against South Africa A in the recently concluded two unofficial tests at Bengaluru. Shaw made 163 against the same opposition.

Vihari told the Indian Express that he was presently surprised by the call-up. “I’m not a very emotional person but I did feel a lot of them today. I immediately called my mother and informed her, because I owe a lot to her. It’s only because of the sacrifices she made after I lost my father at a young age that I am here,” he said.

Teenaged Shaw is a direct replacement for Vijay whereas as the middle-order batsman Vihari has been selected as a cover for Virat Kohli. Kohli has had issues with his back, because of which he sat out part of the second test at Birmingham. Indian Express reported that even though Karun Nair is an extra in the squad, the MSK Prasad led selection committee thought it judicious to have another batsman in the squad. Vihari’s inclusion gives the team management more choices to pick from if things go wrong in the fourth test.

India won the third test at Trent Bridge but England lead the series 2 – 1 going into the fourth test in Southampton that begins on August 30. The fifth test will be played at the Oval in London from September 7.

India Squad: Virat Kohli (C), Dhawan, Rahul, Prithvi Shaw, Pujara, Rahane, Rishabh Pant (wk), Hardik Pandya, Ashwin, Jadeja, Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Shami, Umesh Yadav, Shardul Thakur, Karun Nair, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Hanuma Vihari

England Squad: Joe Root, Moeen Ali, Jimmy Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler, Alastair Cook, Sam Curran, Keaton Jennings, Ollie Pope, Adil Rashid, Ben Stokes, James Vince, Chris Woakes. (James Vince is called back to the Test squad, whereas Jamie Porter has been let go so that he can play for Essex in the first division).

India on winning path at Trent Bridge

India on winning path at Trent Bridge

What a day it turned out to be for India! India put themselves in complete control of the Third Test at Trent Bridge after setting a target of 521 for the English batters. Virat Kohli’s comfortable ton, Pujara’s come back to form with 73 runs and Pandya’s half-century all added up to 352/7 before declaring the innings.

Starting Day 3 with a wicketless session, the overnight pair of Kohli and Pujara slowly inched forward to Lunch. The English bowlers bowled with gusto but their fielders were a let-down, literally. Jos Buttler dropped Pujara on the ninth over of the day of James Anderson. Keaton Jennings let down Virat Kohli’s catch at slip when he was in the nervous nineties. English wicket-keeper spent most part of the day in the dugout after he fractured his left middle finger. England’s fielding lapses, especially in the slip cordon were on full display drawing criticisms. With the costly drop of Kohli at 93, the English fielders have dropped 15 catches this series.

Positives emerged for India with Pujara hitting his first fifty in all first-class matches that he has played in the county season in England. The most defensive and patient Test cricketer in the squad steadily mounted his runs. In the first hour, he faced 58 balls and scored only 8 runs. After lunch, he got to the fifty-run mark for the second time this year. The first one coming in the series against South Africa. Though his fifty is not a sign of perpetual form, it is a glimpse at the Test batsmen’s ability.

Pandya complemented the efforts with his run a ball 52*. India’s strategy seemed to hinge on tiring the Englishmen rather than on the runs. India piled up the runs, declaring with 352/7 – the highest total in the entire series for India.

England sent in to bat for the second time in two days, ended the day with 23 runs on the scoreboard with 10 wickets intact. With uncertainty over Bairstow’s availability, England seems to be reduced to a 10-man side.

England’s chances look bleak. India seems on a high and ready to win this.

Very rarely do Test matches swing the other side after being in such positions. England needs to summon up the courage to avoid a batting collapse like in the first innings. With two days in their hand, the batsmen need to pace out their innings and not lose wickets against a bowling attack that has some variety.

For India, placed comfortably on the winning path, they would look to pitch the ball in the right areas, and hope for wickets with some assistance from the seaming conditions.

Hardik Pandya’s maiden five-for helps India gain control of the Test

Hardik Pandya’s maiden five-for helps India gain control of the Test

For the first time in the series, India seems in command and in a winning position. Hardik Pandya’s maiden five-for bundled up the England batsmen for 161 runs. At stumps on day 2, India has 124 runs on board with loss of two wickets and a lead of 292 runs.

Starting the day with an overnight score of 307/6, India lost the remaining 4 wickets for 22 runs. Setting a target of 329 for England to chase down.

England sent in to bat were set up well by the openers who amassed 54 runs before the fall of the wicket. Right after lunch, the England team batsmen scurried back to the pavilion as quickly as they came. Root, the England captain stood at the crease the longest – 68 minutes before he edged a bowl from Pandya to KL Rahul in second slip. The first of Pandya’s victims on Day 2.

With the score reading 110/5, Johnny Bairstow became Pandya’s second prey. Full-length delivery, angling in towards middle and off stump, edged off Bairstow’s bat and into KL Rahul’s hands at second slip. Woakes and Rashid too fall to Pandya’s swing bowling antics in a similar fashion – caught behind by Pant. Rishabh Pant also had a remarkable debut with 5 dismissals behind the stumps.

Last of Pandya’s victim, Stuart Broad. A plumb lbw to a full, in-swinging delivery. He tries to flick the ball down to leg-side but the ball hits the pads in front of the middle stump.

In a spell of six overs, Pandya managed to clean up the England batsmen. He became the talk of the cricketing world after the 29 ball clean up. Pandya finished the day with career-best figures of 5/28 runs in six overs.

Doubts remain about England’s batting strength which does not corroborate with their batting depth. Sanjay Manjrekar was quick to point it out on Twitter.

The English top order still faces questions over its failure to score the majority of the runs. Even though Alastair Cook was the top-scorer in the top 6 batsmen, he seems to show no hint of his previous prolific batting gusto. Jos Buttler emerged as a positive figure for the English batsmen with his back of the innings toiling effort to stay on the wicket while crossing the 1000 run mark in Tests.

When asked if he knew the reasons for the batting collapse in the post-match conference, Jos Buttler said – “Obviously not, if it keeps happening. Rightly people say it’s been happening too often – which it has. Guys have got to improve. We know that as a side to get to where we want to go we need to eradicate these collapses.”

“There’s no magic answer, I don’t think, apart from hard work. It looks like, when one side has that momentum, it seems hard to wrestle back.”

England who would have started the day with ideas of building on the lead was sent into the bowl again after tea. Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad bowling in tandem seemed to lack their usual luster. Stokes and Rashid picked the two Indian openers –KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan.

India ended the day with 124 for loss of 2 wickets. India looks in command of winning the Test match if they continue the batting with losing too many quick wickets. The Trent Bridge pitch will look a little slower on Day 3, but with a lead of 292 India don’t need to worry about it. But England faces a tough task of stopping the opposition from accumulating a high total and hope for a better batting performance from their batsmen.

Rishabh Pant makes his debut for India

Rishabh Pant makes his debut for India

Rishabh Pant made his debut for the Indian Test side in the Third Test against England at Trent Bridge, Nottingham on Saturday. The 20-year old Delhi wicketkeeper-batsman became the sixth player to make his Test debut for India before turning 21. With meek batting performances in first two Tests, Pant’s inclusion is a welcome change to see if an explosive batsman can help the batting order from collapsing.

Pant rose to fame after his blistering triple ton in the Ranji Trophy 2016-17 season against Maharashtra and a 48-ball century against Jharkhand. In two domestic season and 23 matches, the batsman has amassed 1744 runs, averaging 54.5, with a strike rate of 95.2. A key part of Delhi Daredevils’ franchise in the IPL, he was retained by the franchise for Rs. 8 crores for the 2018 season.

A powered packed hitter of the ball, he is known to play both pace and spin well. Though his wicket-keeping skills are a work in progress, he is an able deputy to Dinesh Karthik in the absence of first choice Test keeper Wriddhiman Saha.

Pant’s performances in India A’s shadow tour to England earlier in the summer might have persuaded the management to give the youngster a go. In the unofficial test against West Indies A at Taunton, Pant saw his team to the end with a 100-run partnership between him and Jayant Yadav. In the tri-series ODI finals against England Lions, he scored 64 off 62 to see the team home.

The left-handed batsman was seen practicing and acclimatizing in India’s first practice on Thursday at Trent Bridge. Pant batted with the top order and kept wickets with the slip cordon indicating that his debut would come on Saturday. Dinesh Karthik who remained invisible from the practice sessions missed out on making it to the squad.

Kohli, who was reeling from a sore back seemed in a little discomfort while batting also made the squad. Shikhar Dhawan who sat out the second test also made a comeback to the squad. While Murali Vijay was benched. While Kuldeep Yadav had to sit out to accommodate Jasprit Bumrah who has recovered from a finger injury.

The English team made only one change to their squad. Ben Stokes returned to the squad after not guilty judgment in the Bristol Brawl case.

India squad – Shikhar Dhawan, Lokesh Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (w), Hardik Pandya, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah England squad – Alastair Cook, Keaton Jennings, Joe Root (c), Ollie Pope, Jonny Bairstow (w), Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Adil Rashid, Stuart Broad, James Anderson.

Ben Stokes to play in the Trent Bridge Test after ‘not guilty’ verdict

Ben Stokes to play in the Trent Bridge Test after ‘not guilty’ verdict

England all-rounder Ben Stokes is set to join his teammates in the third test against India at Trent Bridge. The all-rounder was in court for the last six days in a hearing to decide his involvement in a nightclub brawl in September last year which left a man unconscious.

The Bristol Brown Court discharged the English cricketer with a ‘not guilty’ judgment by a jury of six men and six women on August 14.

The court also pronounced Ryan Ali, his co-defendant ‘not guilty’ in a hearing that lasted 2.5 hours.

Stokes’ wife Clare and his agent Neil Fairbrother broke down when the jury pronounced him not guilty of affray. Stokes, standing in the dock, allowed himself a moment to shut his eyes. He then offered his hand to Ryan Ali, who shook it.

George Dobell, senior correspondent at ESPN Cricinfo tweeted about the gesture saying “that’s how this should have been solved 10 months ago”.

Stokes was arrested on September 25 last year after he and team-mate Alex Hales were involved in a fight outside a Bristol nightclub. A case was registered against Stokes, whereas Hales was not charged after being interviewed under caution by the police.

Stokes missed the Ashes in Australia last year but was recalled to the side after a court date was set. He was also included in the squad for the series against India. But he missed the second Test at Lord’s due to the case hearing.

While the court has set him free, an internal disciplinary process will be undertaken by the Cricket Discipline Committee to review the incident and probably pronounce a punishment to Stokes and Hales for bringing the game into disrepute.

There are some like Michael Vaughan who believes that Stokes must not be punished further because he missed out on playing in the Ashes. The disciplinary committee will begin their review process after the Third test match to be played at Trent Bridge from August 18-22.

England lead the 5- match Pataudi Trophy series 2-0.

Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri likely to face BCCI questioning

Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri likely to face BCCI questioning

Indian Captain Virat Kohli and Head Coach Ravi Shastri are likely to face BCCI questioning after the team’s resigned performance in the first Two tests against England. The Number 1 test team in the world suffered an embarrassing loss by an innings and 159 runs at Lords after a severe batting collapse on the Day 4 of the test.

The duo will be under scrutiny for their team management and will be answerable for the dismal performances of the batsmen in the concluded games. They will face questions after the conclusion of the 3rd Test at Trent Bridge from August 18-22. The teams for the 4th and the 5th tests will also depend on the team’s performance in the Nottingham test.

BCCI scheduled the limited overs games against Ireland and England before the team could play red ball cricket. A “shadow tour” of the India A team was simultaneously sent to play in England which accommodated Test batsmen Ajinkya Rahane and Murali Vijay to help acclimatize with the playing conditions.

“The Indian team can’t complain that they were not given enough time to prepare. When we lost the South Africa series, the players spoke about tight scheduling and lack of practice games. It was after speaking to them that we decided that white ball matches will be held before the Tests,” a senior BCCI official told PTI on conditions of anonymity.

The official’s comments indicate the BCCI’s discontent with the team’s performances. The batting collapse in both the matches would be under review. Except for the captain, no player has crossed the half-century mark in the four innings. Kohli produced an outstanding century to anchor the team to a competitive total in the first innings of the first test at Edgbaston. In the Lords test, R Ashwin top-scored for the team in both innings with scores of 29 and 33 with the team being bowled out inside 50 overs in both innings. Also, under discussion would be Virat Kohli’s team selection. His ‘tinkering tactics’ that began in the matches against Ireland, do not seem to be bearing fruit against the home team. His decision to replace opener Shikhar Dhawan and inclusion of wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav on the grassy track of Lords were questioned by the commentators and experts.

Also, under the radar are batting coach Sanjay Bangar and fielding coach R Sridhar. Former Australian cricketer and commentator Ian Chappell has criticised the Indian team fielding techniques, especially in the slips.

It is worthy to note that with similarly embarrassing results in the 2014 Test matches in England, the BCCI replaced Duncan Fletcher’s appointed bowling coach Joe Dawes and fielding coach Trevor Penny ahead of the ODIs. This was also when Ravi Shastri was appointed to the newly created position of Team Director.

Some news reports also claim the carte blanche power held by the duo might be restricted. Sunil Gavaskar has long suggested that a member of the National Selection Committee accompany the team for away tours to maintain balance in the team decisions like the Australian Cricket team does.

Fans question Anushka Sharma’s presence in the team photo

Fans question Anushka Sharma’s presence in the team photo

BCCI posted the picture of the Indian team at the dinner hosted by Indian High Commission in London. But the presence of Bollywood actress and wife of Captain Virat Kohli, Anushka Sharma seems to have irked people, especially on social media networks.

The photo posted on BCCI’s official Twitter account (@BCCI) of the players and support staff at the High Commission captioned “#TeamIndia members at the High Commission of India in London”, included Anushka, the lone spouse. Her “front and center” presence in the picture has fans abuzz.

Some questioned why she was placed in the team photo, while others moaned how other players like the Vice-Captain were situated in the last row.

Others took the photo to question if she was going to play in the next match.

Some samaritans on the social media platform came to Anushka’s support and took the trolls for a fact check.

This would not be the first time that the actress has faced flak for being by her husband’s side. She has on several other instances faced backlash for her spouse’s poor performance on the field. Even the couple were going out, she was bulldozed for Kohli’s out-of-form performances. Virat Kohli is known to have defended her on these occasions by calling out the fans for their shameful behavior.

The Twitter thread became a discussion forum for whether BCCI should allow wives and girlfriends (WAGs) to accompany players. While the BCCI has on former occasions restricted spouses to accompany players, the officials seem to have understood that their presence is no hindrance to player’s performances. Rather they might have the opposite effect. Cue to Virat Kohli’s successful against Pakistan in the 2016 World T20 where he celebrated with a flying kiss off his bat for his lady.

The Indian team is currently touring England lag behind 0-2 in the 5-match series. The third match is scheduled to be played in Trent Bridge, Nottingham from 18-22 August.