England vs India 2018: Test Series seems out of grasp as India stares at an innings defeat at Lord's
Jonny Bairstow and Chris Woakes have bailed England out from a possibly tricky situation. England lost half their side with the scoreboard reading 131/5 when Woakes joined Bairstow.
The two stitched together a mammoth partnership of 189 runs. While Bairstow missed a deserving century by seven runs, Woakes notched up his maiden Test hundred at the iconic Lords on Day-3 of the already rain-marred Test match.
At the crease, England have already earned an insurmountable lead of 250 runs, with Woakes batting at 120 runs joined by the player of the match from Edgbaston Test, Sam Curran who was unconquered at 22 runs.
With Day-4 predicted to have a cloudy sky with yet another rain interruption on the cards, England would be itching to add 50-70 quick runs before lunch and declare, so that James Anderson and company can look for early inroads to another famous English win against an Indian side that is heavily dependent on captain Virat Kohli.
Meanwhile, Indian team management is in distress as the batsmen have so far failed to apply themselves technically against the challenging conditions where they are struggling to read the swinging and bouncing red cherry.
Barring Virat Kohli, not a single batsman has gone past 50 runs in the three innings that India has batted so far in the Test series. It is clearly evident that the India’s lack of practice on the bouncy and green tops of England is haunting them like the previous tours when they lost miserably 0-4 and 1-3.
The wicket at Lord’s at day-1 seemed to assist both pacers and spinners, but with a washout, things started favoring the hosts, as they won a vital toss.
Credit cannot be taken away from James Anderson, who took a five-fer (5-20) as he became the highest wicket taker at Lord’s with 99 wickets. He also went past Pakistan’s legend, Imran Khan’s tally of 94 wickets, becoming the highest wicket-taker against India in Tests with 95 wickets (and counting).
As both the captains Virat Kohli and Joe Root agreed on the vitality of toss, Jimmy seconded them saying that even England would have been skittled out for a paltry score like that of India had they batted first.
But adding to the glorious record of Anderson’s 549 Test wickets, India’s struggling batsmen in English conditions have always made it easier for him.
Their ordinary shot selection and habit of poking out at the out-swingers has so far been the most disappointing result in the England tour. However, contrastingly, the extra-ordinary batting by Virat Kohli has saved India the blushes and boos so far.
The already under-pressure, influential captain has come out with a brave face before the English media saying that it is not the prevailing conditions in England that challenges India but their mental setup which needs to be set right.
Virat stressed on the fact that the bowlers have put in more than they can to have an evenly contested fight; but the batsmen haven’t helped in this cause. The likes of Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, KL Rahul and Ajinkya Rahane need to punch above their weight if India want to save the Lord’s Test.
These people are proven match-winners, especially Vijay and Rahane, who have performed well in overseas conditions. Pujara needs to bring back the grit, determination and flair with which he bats and should justify the reason that why he is considered the worthy successor to the great Rahul Dravid at number three.
Day-4 will be vital for India as they need to pull up socks to fight for a draw and avoid an innings defeat which is looming large with England’s gigantic total to India’s meagre 107 in the first innings.
Whether India loses or draws the Test, it is certain that Virat will be asked a flurry of questions as to what made him go into the match with two pacers and two spinners on a pitch that has so far assisted mainly the pacers. Even the sun coming out in all glory in Day-3 didn’t get the pitch to open up cracks that could have helped the wily Ashwin and the chinaman-sensation Kuldeep Yadav (who looked an ordinary wrist-spinner).
Including Kuldeep ahead of Umesh was a bold move by Virat which is like taking a chance. But few bold moves have back-fired at Virat and India earlier. So the debate opens up that should India go in with their best possible XI or best probable XI based on conditions in England?
Do they have the required arsenal to stop the Englishmen flying high under the able-leadership of Joe Root? If the Lord’s Test is lost, it will be very difficult for Virat Kohli and his boys to stage a comeback and clasp their hands to the Test series trophy!