India vs England 2018, second Test, day 1: As it happened
Indian Playing Eleven:
Well before the Lords Test began, talks of "Bring Back Pujara" was doing the rounds in the cricketing fraternity more than anything else. This goes to show how big a player Pujara is, in the Test circuit and the wider impact that he has created in the longest version of the game. So, Kohli did the obvious by bringing in Pujara at the cost of Dhawan, who looked all at sea against the likes of Anderson and Curran.
This also meant that Kohli decided to let go of the Left-Right combo at the top, which is all the more important in upsetting the rhythm of the bowler. Then, another interesting change in the eleven is Kuldeep in place of Umesh Yadav. This one must have certainly raised eyebrows considering the fact that the conditions were quite overcast and it was quite good for swing bowling. I guess two things would have run through Kohli's mind before he decided to take this call.
The first reason would probably be the X-factor that Kuldeep brings to the table through his clever chinaman bowling and the second one being England's struggles against Kuldeep in the limited leg tour earlier. So, overall, it remains to be seen whether the ploy to bring in Kuldeep at a cost of a pacer in swinging conditions like these is a plan worth for India.
Toss Became A Crucial Factor:
Overcast conditions and a swinging pitch always favour the fast bowlers and it was a no-brainer that Root bowled first on winning the toss. The fact that even Virat wanted to bowl first, goes to show how much both the teams were desperate in using the conditions to the best extent possible in the early stages of the game.
The Lord At Lords Breathed Fire:
Conditions favouring Swing Bowling and why do England fear when they have Swing King Anderson in their eleven? Right from the very first ball, Anderson proved to be a big threat to the already struggling Indian batting lineup, which just did not turn up yesterday. Vijay fell to a peach, Rahul had no idea where the ball was and edged one to the keeper.
The fiery swing bowler had shown clear intentions that the fuel in his tank was breathing fire as is the case in English conditions always and he came back to wipe off the tail towards the end of the innings to end as the standout performer of the day with 5 wickets.
Rain came as a welcome guest to the visitors:
The rain was a regular customer in yesterday's play as it came in and went out at regular intervals, as was the case with the Indian batsmen. It was a welcome visitor as far as the visitors are concerned, as they needed that break in momentum to have any chance against the likes of Anderson and Broad. But as it turned out, the break in play due to rain could only delay the inevitable as India fell apart for 107.
Probably the moment of the innings as Pujara was as solid as ever. When it comes to batting with Kohli, one needs to be very alert while running those quick singles as there is always a chance of a run-out, and more so for a player like Pujara, who is not known for his running between the wickets. It was Kohli's mistake of calling Pujara for a touch-and-go single and things went downhill as he rejected the single when Pujara had almost come halfway down the pitch. Now, having called Pujara for a risky single and later denying the single midway down the pitch, Kohli's mind would have come to a conclusion that a run-out was certain and now the major question: Should he sacrifice his wicket or preserve his wicket at the cost of Pujara's?
Reasons for Kohli deciding to stay on instead of Pujara:
Kohli always puts a price over his wicket, irrespective of the conditions and situations. He loves to take on challenges and would always want to lead from the front in terms of his batting. Yesterday was no different. Even though Kohli struggled a lot against the moving ball particularly against Woakes, He was desperate to take his team forward but the major mistake he committed was to play at away going deliveries and he, being a natural stroke maker, did not play confident shots to boost up the score, though he scored 23 runs (Second top-scorer of the innings).
Had Pujara stayed in the crease instead of Kohli, no doubt Pujara would have been a rock at one end but the absence of a natural stroke maker at the other end would have made run-scoring difficult as Pujara is known for his slow scoring. Wickets falling at the other end would not have helped India's cause either and India might have been bowled out for a still lesser total considering the fact that Pujara does not carry the reputation of batting with the tail.
Taking all these factors into mind, It tempted Kohli to value his wicket more than that of Pujara's, as staying in this wicket without scoring runs would not have helped India's cause and Kohli already has the experience of bailing India out of trouble by batting with the tail in Edgbaston. Having said all these, I don't justify Kohli's action of calling for a quick single and running out Pujara as a correct decision.
But having done that mistake, Kohli's decision to value his wicket more than that of Pujara's is justifiable although opinions do differ.
Over-Reliance On Virat Kohli:
Once Kohli fell, it was always a matter of time before the rest followed. The lack of proper application and the inability of batsmen to play their natural game led to the downfall of several Indian batsmen if not everyone. Ashwin showed great application and played his natural game, amidst wickets falling at the other end. Rahane looked good for his 18 but could not convert it into a useful knock.
Pandya and Karthik were back in the hut in no time courtesy some brilliant fast bowling from Woakes and Curran. If not for Ashwin's sensible play and Shami swinging his bat, India would not have touched even 100.
And Anderson quietly came back and wiped off the tail in a brilliant exhibition of swing bowling. He deservedly ended up with a 5-fer and in the process, taking his tally to 99 Test wickets at Lords, The Mecca of Cricket.
India Need Something Special:
India needs someone to put their hands up and deliver a similar kind of effort from Anderson, if not better him. But if India can get Cook and Root cheaply, the England batting lineup is bound to crumble under pressure. Early wickets are what holds the key if India are to stop England from running away from the game. Bairstow and Buttler are good timers of the cricket ball and if they click for England, It is going to be a long day in the office for the Indian bowlers.
Pope is an exciting prospect to watch out for and it will be interesting to see how the 20-year-old plays against the Indian bowlers. India is always known to give away too many runs to the tail and the Edgbaston test was no different. Avoiding those errors and wiping off the tail is mandatory for India to get a move on this game. Ishant's experience, Shami's swing, Ashwin's variations and Kuldeep's X-factor is what India would bank upon for some more twists in this great game.