All the detailed analysis, the lengthy previews, and also the three changes that India made for the Old Trafford Test came to naught as England completely routed India on the opening day. Like, at Lord’s, MS Dhoni took the brave decision to bat first again, on a pitch that had a lot on offer, but this is one choice he will be made to regret, at least it seems so for now. 5.1 overs were all it took for England’s pace bowlers to expose Indian batsmen’s lack of prowess under the conditions. If the batting was poor at Southampton, their performance on the opening day at Old Trafford was downright embarrassing.
India made the much expected change at the top by bringing in Gautam Gambhir instead of Shikhar Dhawan. But, merely making changes weren’t going to help India’s cause. They needed to display better technique and temperament. Gambhir did not possess the same. In fact, he was dismissed in exactly the same manner that Dhawan had been by England’s pacers in the earlier Tests. He got a swift away-going delivery outside off stump, and only succeeded in handing a simple catch behind the wickets. It was not the kind of start India needed, but things got only worse.
After 5.1 overs, India were reeling at 8 for 4, and the game is all but over as far as India are concerned unless England collapse in an equally dramatic fashion. While taking no credit away from James Anderson and Stuart Broad, they bowled exceptionally well in the morning session, it must be added that three of the four dismissals could have been avoided had India shown a better aptitude to deal with the conditions. They knew the ball was swinging, and should have been aware that they had to leave as many balls as possible outside off stump.
Analysing the dismissals in detail, only Murali Vijay got an unplayable delivery. The ball was too close to his body for him to leave it alone. Unfortunately, as it often happens with in-form batsmen, he nicked it behind the stumps. A struggling batsman may have played at missed at it, but that is the glorious irony of the sport. As for the dismissals of Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara, their lack of confidence was evident in the shots they played. Both have struggled throughout the series, and ended up pushing at deliveries they should have left alone.
In the build up to the series, India were hell-bent on how they felt let down by the verdict in the James Anderson-Ravindra Jadeja controversy. Too much was being said about the controversy, by MS Dhoni in particular. Perhaps, the whole issue affected them in an unwanted manner. They could have been better off concentrating on the match preparations instead. The skipper himself played a dogged innings, but it wasn’t of much use for India as the actual damage had already been done. Only a miracle can now save India from losing the fourth Test at Old Trafford.
--By A Cricket Analyst