England‘s costly habit of collapsing in Test cricket has put them in evident danger of defeat against India at Trent Bridge.
The hosts were repeating a trend which has taken a curious hold when they lost all 10 wickets in a session on day two of the third Specsavers Test, to be bowled out for 161.
Despite an opening stand of 54, England conceded a lead of 168 as Hardik Pandya recorded only the second five-wicket haul of his first-class career.
After India then closed on 124 for two – a lead of 292 – Joe Root’s hosts appear set to see their series lead shorn to 2-1 with two to play.
England teams through the generations went almost 80 years without losing all their wickets in one session, between 1938 and October 2016, but this one has done so three times in 22 months.
Jos Buttler‘s counter-attacking 39 at least ensured England avoided the follow-on mark.
Assessing the state of play, however, he said: “It’s very disappointing. After a really good start to the day as well, picking up those early wickets and being 50 for none. We let that slip.
“It’s important we can recognise why it’s happened, and improve.”
The snag is that – despite some “very honest conversations” in the dressing-room – Buttler admits there is no “magic answer” to the problem.
Asked if England have yet worked out why they are so prone to collapse, he said: “Obviously not, if it keeps happening.
“Rightly, people say it’s been happening too often, which it has.
“Guys have got to improve. We know that as a side. To get to where we want to go, we need to eradicate these collapses.”
That appears to be slightly easier said than done at present.
“The key is trying not to make the same mistakes. You can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again, whether that’s as an individual or as a team,” he added.
Fantastic cricket, both in front and behind the wickets. Congratulations @hardikpandya7 and @RishabPant777 on your respective 5 wicket hauls! Let’s nip this in the bud now. #ENGvIND pic.twitter.com/lNDVRbQFPc— Sachin Tendulkar (@sachin_rt) 19 August 2018
“There’s no real substitute for hard work.
“It comes down to how can you wrestle back the initiative, maybe with a counter-attacking style or someone trying to sit in and be a bit of a limpet for an hour and ride that session out.
“But obviously we weren’t good enough to do that today.”
England find themselves in a hole here, but Buttler added: “No-one’s going to give up, or throw the towel in.
“We’ve had a poor day today, very disappointing, but we’ll dust ourselves down and come back hard tomorrow.
“Everyone is striving to be the best they can, it’s not for a lack of trying. We’ve had a very bad day, but we will come back hard.”
England international Jason Roy missed Surrey’s crucial Vitality Blast game on Friday night due to a self-inflicted facial injury.
Roy suffered a blow to his face after throwing a bat in frustration following his dismissal in Surrey’s victory against Hampshire on Wednesday night. The bat bounced and hit the 28-year-old.
Surrey traveled to Cardiff to face Glamorgan in their final T20 Blast group game, a match that they need to win to stand any chance of progressing to the quarter-finals of the competition.
Luckily for Surrey, they won the rain-affected match by 10 wickets.
Roy admitted his embarrassment at the incident.
“I’m extremely embarrassed and apologetic to my team mates and fans for this moment of stupidity,” Roy said.
“I want to apologise to Surrey as a club and all the members. Following my dismissal on Wednesday evening – I threw my bat into the ground purely out of self-frustration. It bounced, hit me, and as a result I sustained the injury.
“I’ve never been so motivated and so positive about my game, and I assure you I will learn from my mistake as I am my own biggest critic. In the meantime, I’ll be doing all I can to support the team as we aim to finish the season successfully.”
Roy will have further medical investigations as to the extent of the injury. Surrey begin a day-night County Championship fixture against Lancashire on Sunday.
After Ben Stokes was brought into the team, the England management had the unenviable task of asking a player to vacate the spot.
Drop Ollie Pope? England need some stability in the middle order as there is pressure on Jonny Bairstow with Jos Buttler not in the best of form. How about Adil Rashid? He did not bowl, bat, take a catch or affect a run out at Lord’s. Well, you do need one spinner if the pitch assists. Can’t drop Chris Woakes as he hit a match-winning ton and picked up four wickets in the second Test. Keaton Jennings is not in form but at least he looks decent as an opener. How about Buttler? Well, he has earned his recall and did well against Pakistan, plus he is a senior player so can’t do that.
Therefore, England decided to drop Sam Curran. The left-arm seamer has been a revelation with the ball and bat in both Tests. His match-winning fifty in the first Test, 40 in the second and six wickets across two games have helped the hosts maintain the upper hand. Curran only took one wicket in the second Test but he beat the bat every other delivery and could have easily had five in the match.
Moreover, he is the only left-arm swing bowler on either side and that is a huge advantage in a series that has a bit of sameness to it when it comes to seam bowling attacks.
And England have dropped Sam Curran for Ben Stokes? Pope, Rashid, Buttler - you had many options. Curran's left arm angle showed value in first Test, not to forget his batting. Harsh call imo.— Nikhil 🏏 (@CricCrazyNIKS) August 17, 2018
Joe Root said asking Curran to sit out was one of the toughest decisions he has made as a skipper. It’s a decision that might not cost the hosts as India are low on confidence and someone like James Anderson himself is enough to rattle Virat Kohli‘s men in seamer-friendly conditions.
But looking at the long-term, Curran’s classic left-arm swing bowling and immense composure at the crease, along with his dogged batting are qualities that England need to develop and nurture.
All that could have easily ensured Curran’s continued selection. If Root had decided to drop Pope, Rashid or even Jennings, it could have been justified by numbers. But England have made up their mind and now it’s up to Curran to wait for his next chance.
England are on top at the moment. But if India somehow manage to put up a fight, England might just start to miss Curran’s angle with the ball and composure with the bat.