Southampton: It was virtually back to the ignominy of 2011, as England plundered runs against a hapless Indian bowling attack on the second day of the third Test to establish a dominant position in the encounter after losing the second Test at Lord’s last week.
While it could be said India were probably at the unfortunate end of two umpiring decisions on the first day when Gary Ballance and Ian Bell escaped, there were no such excuses on the second day. The former had completed his hundred on the first day; the latter duly followed suit on the second.
Essentially, on both days, India’s three quicker bowlers persisted along an incorrect line to make life relatively easy for the Englishmen. There was only one option for the Indians – to peg away at the off stump. This, they often failed to do. They either directed their deliveries too wide of the off stump or in attempting to correct their mistake erred by pitching on the leg stump.
The net result was the England batsman could shoulder arms to the ones adrift of off stump, while the ones of leg stump became easy pickings. One-third of balls on or around the leg stump, especially to the left-hander Ballance, was nothing but a gift.
Historically, Indian bowlers have struggled against left-handers and this came to the fore in this innings. Theoretically, both Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who bowls an incisive inswinger, and Mohammed Shami, who tends to slant the ball away from a left-hander, are well equipped to trouble left-handers. But they nullified their effectiveness by straying in line.
Pankaj Singh, who began well on the first day, rather lost his way on the second. Luckless with the medium pacers, captain Mahendra Dhoni turned first to Ravindra Jadeja, his regular left-arm spinner who was meant to fulfill a defensive role in the first innings, and then to a part-time off-spinner Rohit Sharma, who broke the burgeoning partnership between Ballance and Bell.
Then, as is characteristic of English conditions, the ball began to wobble in the afternoon, even more so under a cloud cover and Kumar came into his own, albeit only slightly to India’s relief. India are already staring down a barrel in this Test.