India brush aside England at Motera
For the second time in this series, England fell prey to some high-class spin bowling and of course, their penchant for playing the wrong line. They were well beaten, rather dispatched, at the end. In this article, we will dissect the game between India and England and explore five key talking points that could influence the next test.
That England lost is not really a surprise. The manner definitely is, as is the fact that the long-awaited pink ball Test lasted a little less than two days. But really, the pitch should not be “the” talking point, for there’s a lot more to discuss and dissect – not least a hopeless display of batting by Joe Root’s England.
Here are the main talking points from England’s latest obliteration:
Blame the culture, not the pitch
How many of the current crop of England’s test batsmen can be trusted against the spinning ball anyway? To most of them, it’s a cultural shock. There’s a reason why.
If you nurture your batsmen on pitches that primarily assist the seamers, and pitches like the one famously prepared at Taunton are constantly castigated, there’s no way even someone as gifted as Ollie Pope will be able to survive against the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel, playing whom, is a test anywhere in the world.
A five-wicket haul in his debut Test ✅
A five-wicket haul in his second Test ✅
Axar Patel 👏 pic.twitter.com/p88tgQzHx9
— ICC (@ICC) February 24, 2021
And then, you cannot overlook the way the first-class fixtures have been scheduled. This season, for example, a majority of those will “not” be played when the English Summer is at the peak of powers, i.e., July and August.
At this time of the year, the pitches are most likely to assist the slower bowlers but sadly, just two rounds of the County Championship are scheduled to be played over the course of these two months.
If England are to ever win on Indian soil again, the change has to begin in England, not elsewhere.
Time for Ollie Pope to make way for now
The way Pope was twice cleaned up making the same mistake in this test, and the way he has been playing in general, even he would be surprised to find himself playing the decider. For what it’s worth, Dan Lawrence – dropped for the penultimate test – was not nearly as uncomfortable in any of the two matches he played, as Pope was in Motera. Time to bring him back, maybe?
Pope making way also allows Lawrence to play at six, which would appear to be a spot more suited to him. Will it bring success? Perhaps not. Is it a better option, and one that is also in Pope’s best interests for now? Definitely.
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Jack Leach is England’s man of the series so far
— 100MB (@100MasterBlastr) February 22, 2021
With 16 wickets an average of 25, Jack Leach has, without any doubt, been England’s best and most consistent player in the series so far. Since being subjected to “that” assault by Rishabh Pant in Chennai – which many feared would haunt him for a while – he has not only improved but also, emerged as the side’s leading bowler.
To add perspective, only Ashwin and Patel have taken more wickets in the series, while Moeen Ali is England’s next best with 8 wickets. He has got Rohit Sharma out four times, Cheteshwar Pujara thrice and Ashwin twice. Quite clearly, not someone who has been stat-padding.
Perhaps, and this is not a bad idea, England might benefit by playing a second spinner in the final test. India may still beat England but at least it won’t be one of the common talking points yet again.
Mentally shot but the baggage can be put behind
This is the first time since 1888 that England have been bowled out for under 200 in five successive innings. Since scoring 578 in the 1st innings of the 1st Test, their totals have been: 178, 134, 164, 112 and 81.
Those are horrific numbers by any standards. Here is a bit more perspective: Root’s 218 in the opening test is at least 40 more than England’s highest total since.
Such numbers can be mentally damaging but let’s not forget that this is still a very good England side on paper, with players who have had careers that many can only dream of.
Normally, you need strong characters in the dressing room to overcome the mental baggage that such performances bring, and the visitors do have such characters in abundance.
A dressing room that has the likes of Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes, James Anderson, Jack Leach and Stuart Broad shouldn’t have too many troubles dealing with the pressure of a difficult tour.
— ICC (@ICC) February 9, 2021
However, yes, the basics of the game are still pretty much the same and England’s batsmen have to work on them in the time between now and the next test. You don’t become world-class players of spin over five or ten days, obviously, but at least, going back to what you have been trained to do always helps.
Which is to say, trusting your strengths, instincts and your technique is second to none.
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Let’s be honest here, even if you factor in the extra lacquer on the pink ball, this was still a very tough pitch to bat on. Ahmedabad was nothing like Chennai. Had it been, Root wouldn’t have taken 5/8 and 114/3 wouldn’t have become 145 all out for India. The fact that the hosts struggled, too, does serve as a measure of how difficult the surface was.
There has been no shortage of conflict, with a number of people arguing that conditions in England are no easier. This is true, but there is a difference. A lot of the so-called green pitches in England at least hold together for longer periods, meaning that with a bit more application, there are rewards to be had. This one, meanwhile, threatened to cease to exist by the fifth day.
There is nothing wrong with the home side preparing tracks that suit them the best. However, when a test match ends inside two days, surely, there must have been something wrong? If England can’t use the pitch as an excuse to validate their defeat – which they have not, by the way – their lack of skill can’t be used as an excuse to defend the pitch either.
We hope you enjoyed our article on the five key talking points in the third test between India and England.
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