The England-India series was expected to be a hard fought one, especially after India's sensational triumph at Lord's. However, the last two Tests have been completely one-sided, with India being a far cry from the side that won at Lord's. Following the shameful defeats at Southampton and Old Trafford, India now find themselves in a position from where they cannot win the series. At the most, they can square the series 2-2. But, that seems like a very difficult proposition with one match to go, and India's woeful form.
At first sight, it is difficult to comprehend how India got themselves into such a difficult position after the Lord's triumph. But, a deeper probing of the situation will give us a clearer picture of India's downfall. In hindsight, it was the opening day at Southampton that turned the series around. England decided to bat first under tough conditions. India's bowlers had an opportunity to put England's struggling batting line up under real pressure, but they missed the bus. Had India gone to lunch with England 3 or 4 down, they could have dominated the Test from thereon. But, it wasn't to be.
The Englishmen had luck on their side as well. The first ball bowled by Bhuvneshwar Kumar to a struggling Alastair Cook was the perfect opening delivery. It pitched on a length and moved away. It was too good for Cook. Maybe, the England captain could have nicked it had he been in form. But, Cook survived, and India's bowlers did not test him much in the following overs. A big opportunity was lost when Ravindra Jadeja dropped Cook on 15. The England captain went on to add another 80 runs. In hindsight, it was a series-changing drop, for Cook and Gary Ballance took England to an impregnable position at the end of day one.
England went into the Southampton Test with two of their most experienced batsmen out of form, Ian Bell being the other. The excellent performances by the top three meant that Bell had the easier conditions to bat on, on the second day. Still, India did not bowl well enough to trouble him like they had done earlier in the series. In Ishant Sharma's absence, they did not have the bowlers to do so. With both Cook and Bell back among the runs, India found themselves in a highly uncomfortable position from where they couldn't recover. England did not allow them to.
Throughout the first couple of Tests, it was evident that India's batting was not at its best. But, they survived at Trent Bridge thanks to a docile pitch, and turned in a match-winning effort at Lord's thanks to stupendous efforts from Ajinkya Rahane, Murali Vijay, and Ishant Sharma. At Southampton though, Vijay couldn't stand up to the challenge, and Ishant wasn't available. It was only Rahane, who held the side together with a couple of fifties. The rest merely made up the numbers as they had been doing earlier in the series. England's bowlers were already in peak form, and they only needed their experienced batsmen to get in touch. It happened at Southampton, and the series had turned.
--By A Cricket Analyst