The good old adage of ‘catches win matches’ often comes back to haunt cricket teams. After India’s slip cordon had a shocking outing in the opening match at Rajkot, England have repaid the favor by making a costly miss of their own. Leg-spinner Adil Rashid dropped a straightforward chance to reprieve the home side’s skipper Virat Kohli during a pivotal moment in the opening day of the second Test at Vizag.
Kohli was batting on 56 when a well-directed short ball from Ben Stokes caught him in a tangle. From an awkward position beyond the leg stump, the right-hander unfurled a not-so-convincing pull shot and brought the long-leg fielder into play. However, Rashid failed to acknowledge the opportunity by taking an additional amount of time to get off his mark.
Having not picked it up at the precise moment, he tried to dive forward in a desperate attempt to latch on to the catch. However, the 28-year-old could not hold on to the chance and let off Kohli. While the bowler was understandably unimpressed with Rashid’s effort, skipper Alastair Cook could hardly believe what had transpired and placed his hands on his head in a forlorn manner.
Former Indian all-rounder Ravi Shastri did not let go of the opportunity to play with his words on air. The easily excitable commentator responded to the drop by noting, “Stokes will be stoked (mockingly euphoric).” Meanwhile, Kohli made sure of capitalizing on the reprieve by motoring to 151 and taking India to a dominant position on a surface which could start deteriorating sharply during the next few days.
He put on 226 runs for the third wicket alongside Cheteshwar Pujara as the visitors found themselves on the receiving end of a batting master class. The Saurashtra batsman completed his century as well to seize the initiative after they had lost both openers cheaply. When confronted with three different types of spinners, the duo punished even slightly off target deliveries to keep the scoreboard ticking.
Apart from the returning James Anderson who picked up three wickets for just 44 runs from 16 overs, none of the other bowlers appeared to pose any discernible threat to the Indian batsmen. Even though Pujara fell to a lapse in concentration after reaching three figures for the third successive time in Tests, a 68-run stand between Kohli and Rahane steadied the ship once more.
Upon taking the second new ball, Anderson coerced Rahane into pushing away from his body to pull one back for England during the penultimate over of the day. However, things could have turned out quite differently if Rashid had managed to hold onto the catch which would have put India in a spot of bother at 132/3.
Instead, Kohli remained unbeaten at stumps and they reached 317/4. With adequate lower-order depth at their disposal, the hosts will no doubt to look to press on for a daunting total when the second day begins.
Amidst claims of the modern-day game improving fielding standards considerably, the evidence from the series thus far from both sides seems to suggest that the focus has been misplaced on saving ones and twos instead of honing fielding techniques to prevent dropped catches which could have an even bigger effect on a team’s fortunes.