It happens once, you can call it a fluke. It happens twice, it’s worrisome. It happens three times, it’s danger time.
In three Tests out of five in the Pataudi Trophy, England‘s lower-order batsmen have pulled the hosts out of trouble and put them in control. Credit goes to the likes of Jos Buttler, Sam Curran and co for sticking to the basics and fighting it out in difficult conditions. Both teams have failed to score 400 so far this series, which shows ball has dominated bat. With runs so hard to come by against some quality bowlers, the efforts of England’s lower order are worth twice or maybe three times more in flatter conditions.
England were staring down the barrel at 181-7 at The Oval and in danger of being bowled out under 200. But as has happened throughout the series, India let things drift and the hosts wasted no time in cashing in. In the fifth Test, Buttler’s brilliant 89 helped take the team from 181-7 to 332. He received fine support from Stuart Broad (38) and Adil Rashid (15).
3-1 scoreline doesn't say how well India have played overall in this series. It does say however how poorly they have bowled to England's tail. #EngvInd— Chetan Narula (@chetannarula) September 8, 2018
In the fourth Test at Southampton, England rallied from 86-6 in the first innings to post a match-winning total of 246 thanks to a gutsy 78 from Curran. In the second innings, they recovered from 122-5 to post 271 with Buttler (69) and Curran (46) the stars again. England won by 60 runs and with it the series.
In the first Test, England rose from 87-7 in the second innings to reach 180, thanks once again to the pugnacious Curran (63) as England won by 31 runs. Even in the second Test at Lord’s, the hosts were 131-5 in reply to India’s 107 on a greentop before a fine unbeaten ton by all-rounder Chris Woakes took them close to 400 and set up an innings win.
As much as England have been brilliant after being five down, India have been equally poor letting them off the hook. After the first Test, India should have had specific plans to counter the lower order and tail of England as in a low scoring match they had accumulated too many runs, especially given the nature of the Birmingham pitch.
But be it spin or seam, no Indian bowler has managed to stick to the basics while dealing with England’s lower half. Getting the lower order out consistently is an art and the most effective way always has been and always will be to bowl full and straight. There is a reason why those batsmen come in after five down – they are not specialist batsmen. You keep attacking the stumps and pads and sooner rather than later, they will miss and especially when there is so much help on offer as has been the case this series.
While India’s lower order (number 6-11) scored just 420 runs in the series, England’s amassed 1,068. For all the quality of the India attack, and it is admittedly very good, they still don’t know how to finish things off after taking the first five wickets. It has gone beyond just being frustrating; India’s poor finishing skills have hurt them this series and will only get worse on flatter wickets. They haven’t learnt their lessons in five Tests in England. It’s up to the team management and bowlers to be honest about their shortcomings because everyone knows where India lost the series.
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