Oh what a fall for Kohli’s men

By Kersi Meher-Homji

What a nose dive for the Indian cricket team; from high to low, from acme to nadir! From cloud nine after the Lord’s Test victory last week to down to earth with a shattering bang at Headingly, Leeds on Saturday.

As I watched the Test on Wednesday and Saturday, I sang Suraiya’s Anmol Ghadi song “Socha tha kya, kya ho gaya.”

Wednesday the 25th August was one of the saddest day in Indian cricket when they collapsed for 78 in less than half a day. Not one batsman could reach 20 as the English fast bowlers Jimmy Anderson, Craig Overton and Ollie Robinson shot them down with a proverbial machine gun; bang bang bang.

The pitch improved for batsmen when England batted, their first four batsmen passing 60 runs; Rory Burns 61, Haseeb Hameed 68, Dawid Milan 70 and skipper Joe Root 121. Root had thus outscored India (78 all out).This was his third century in three Tests. Phenomenal! It was his 23rd Test century.

At one stage England was going great guns at 3 for 350. But Mohammed Shami bowled accurately to take 4 for 95 and England totaled 432 to take a huge lead of 354.

India fought back on the third day and wase 2 for 215 at stumps with captain Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara batting with confidence. Earlier opener Rohit Sharma had given India a promising start with 59 runs.

Will India add about 300 more runs with Ajinkya Rahane, Sourabh Pant and Ravi Jadeja still to come and set England a challenging target on the final day? It did not turn out that way as both Kohli (55) and Pujara (91) fell quickly. Apart from Ravindra Jadeja who hit an aggressive 30 with five fours and a six, the rest fell without a fight and India lost by an innings and 76 runs.

For taking 5 for 68 in India’s second innings and 7 for 84 in the match, Ollie Robinson was made Man of the Match.

Now the see-saw series is tied one-all with two more Tests to come, the fourth Test starting at The Oval, London on Thursday, 2nd September.

Two questions to be raised after the Headingly disaster for the Indian team. Did Kohli make a mistake in choosing to bat on a swinging pitch after winning the toss? Would inclusion of experienced off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin instead of out of form fast-medium bowler Ishant Sharma have made a difference?

Our congratulations to Joe Root for leading his team well and scoring centuries in all three Tests in this series. He overtook fellow Yorkshireman Michael Vaughan’s record for most Test wins. This win over India on Saturday was his 27th in 55 Tests as captain. Bravo, Joe.

At the presentation Kohli said, “Basically down to scoreboard pressure. Always up against it when you get out for under 80 and the opposition puts up such a big score. But we did well to stay in the game yesterday, fight back as much as we could and gave ourselves a chance. But the pressure today [on Saturday] was outstanding from the England bowlers and eventually they got the results they wanted.

“[First innings] Quite bizarre, it can happen in this country, batting collapses. We thought the pitch was good to bat on, coming on nicely. But the discipline forced mistakes and the pressure was relentless. Difficult to cope when you’re not scoring runs. That caused the batting order to crumble.

“[Toss decision] No, pitch looked good to bat on, when England batted it was a different ball game because we weren’t as good with the ball. The result is a reflection of how the teams played in this game, we expected them to bounce back. Depth, it’s an argument you can have. The top order has to give enough runs for the lower middle order to step up. We did pretty well in the first two games, when you have a result like this you can’t take too much from it. As a batting group we need to stay close and confident, even after 36 all out [in Australia] we came back.

“Selection for Oval depends on the pitch, assess the surface, how much moisture and our decision will be based on that. I think this template works, the four seamers [in these conditions]. For sure, we set the template, you’re playing Test cricket, and we’ve bounced back in the past. There are things we need to improve but we will take pride in trying to correct those errors. Something we are looking forward to.”

Hope Virat and his men don’t make Indian fans hum, “Socha tha kya, kya ho gaya” next week!

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