England vs India 2018: Pitch condition remains tricky as hosts focus on batting
Last week, Team India not only won the Nottingham Test by 203 runs but also kept them alive in the 5-match Test series by pulling one back after two successive losses. With captain Virat Kohli at his imperious best, what the Indian captain wanted was support from other premier batsmen whom he trusts and expected to stand tall in the challenging English conditions.
The English media has already been appreciating the quality of bowling the Indian pacers have had displayed so far in the 3 Tests. Spearheaded by the lanky Ishant Sharma, the Indian bowlers came all guns blazing in Trent Bridge as they rattled England for a paltry 161 in the first innings which was the turning point in the Test.
If it was Hardik Pandya in the first innings (5/28), it was his Mumbai Indians teammate Jasprit Bumrah who announced his comeback in whites (5/85) in the second innings. Prior to these 5-fers, Ishant Sharma also shone with the ball (5/51) in the Edgbaston Test, though in a losing cause by a narrow margin of 31 runs.
The English team management is already in a fuss as they cannot continue to risk to laying green tops as they are aware of the exploits of the Indian pace quartet. But on the other hand, if they lay a dry and dusty track capable of cracks, then a fit-again Ravichandran Ashwin can cause havoc in the opposition dressing room. It will be interesting how the curator goes ahead with the pitch conditions.
What England needs is its premier bowlers James Anderson and Stuart Broad to continue to shine with the ball thereby exemplifying their vast experience. Apart from the duo, Ben Stokes and Chris Broad are also expected to play a vital role. However, history says that the pitch at Rose Bowl assists both pace and spin.
Like India, England also has a lot to worry when it comes to batting, as the top four are yet to fire; barring Joe Root’s 80 in Birmingham. Post the ODI series, English fans expected their Test captain to continue to yield runs, but to their misfortune, he has been suffering against the searing pace and bounces. On the contrary, his Indian counterpart, Virat Kohli has so far scored 440 runs in 3 Tests that includes 2 centuries and 2 half-centuries; erasing the ghostly memories of 2014.
Both England and India need to address their batting, especially England with their opening combination. It will be interesting to see whether Keaton Jennings features in the fourth Test or not. India also has put to rest the speculations that rookie Prithvi Shaw will be making his debut at Rose Bowl. The Indian team management is happy with Dhawan-Rahul combination that stitched together 60-runs stand twice.
Meanwhile, this Indian team under Virat Kohli should be proud of a statistical bowling record as this is for the first time in 130 years that a visiting bowling unit has struck with a Strike Rate of 43.76 (min. 3 Tests) which is the best SR so far in English soil! Truly, they have effectively performed as the underrated numero uno bowling line-up. Here is the stats (Stats figure reference: Aaj Tak) below:
Team Matches SR Year
India 3 43.76 2018
Australia 6 45.05 1997
Australia 5 46.60 2015
South Africa 4 47.52 2017
Australia 5 49.22 1909
Among the five Indian bowlers, Ishant Sharma has taken 11 wickets with an average of 27.27 and a SR of 44.1 in 3 Tests, all-rounder Hardik Pandya has surprised one and all taking 9 wickets at an impressive average of 18.00 and a SR of 31.40 in as many Tests, Mohammed Shami has been a bit patchy with 8 wickets (41.50, 62.70) in 3 Tests. Coming back after injury Jasprit Bumrah straight away became the impact bowler India was lacking.
He took 7 wickets (17.42, 35.04) in Trent Bridge. Meanwhile, Umesh Yadav has featured in a solitary Test in Edgbaston where he had an ordinary outing with just 3 wickets in his kitty (25.33, 48.00). It is expected that India will be going with the same winning XI but the record suggests something else.
In his 38 Tests as captain, Virat Kohli has tinkered and changed the playing XI every single time India took the field. If he wishes to continue with the same antics, then perhaps Mohammed Shami may make way for Umesh Yadav in the playing XI.
Over the years, England has witnessed the likes of Marshall-Holding (West Indies), Thomson-Lilee (Australia), Donald-Pollock (South Africa) and Wasim-Waqar (Pakistan), but this underrated Indian pace attack has quietly been performing since the tour of South Africa, where they scalped all 60 wickets in 3 Tests for the first time.