Prolific lower order helps India gain upper hand
By Amlan Chakraborty
MOHALI, India (Reuters) - A functional lower order had previously been resigned to the realm of wishful thinking for India but recent results, especially in the series against England, suggest skipper Virat Kohli has finally acquired one.
Having reduced India to 204-6 in the third test at Mohali over the weekend, England's hopes of forging a crucial first innings lead were hardly unrealistic.
What followed was a resolute rearguard action by the Indian tail with Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Jayant Yadav supplying more than half of the 417 runs India finally amassed at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium.
Ashwin enhanced his batting reputation with a defiant 72, Jadeja threatened a maiden test ton before falling 10 runs short and Jayant hit a first test fifty to give India a 134-run first innings lead which effectively took the match away from England.
It was the first time that India's number seven, eight and nine batsmen had posted 50-plus scores in a match as the hosts moved 2-0 ahead in the five-test series.
Kohli knows how frustrating it is to be thwarted by the tailenders and is obviously happy that the tables have been turned.
"As a side, when you get five-six wickets, you think the game is going to get over soon. Your batsmen go into that zone and then suddenly you have to field for 60-70 more overs," Kohli said after India sealed an eight-wicket victory on Tuesday.
Such a situation could confound any team, Kohli said, whether to focus on the field or think about their own batting.
"We experienced that in the past when other teams have done it against us. So it's great to see our guys stepping up and actually making it count. In every game, on an average, they are scoring 80-85 runs," Kohli added.
Primarily selected for their prowess with the ball on turning pitches, Ashwin, who has scored four test centuries, has hit a fifty in each of the three tests against England while Jadeja and Jayant have also proved they are no dud with the bat.
Such obstinate resistance not only deflates the opposition but also boosts the confidence of the spin trio when they resume their main role.
"It helps them, they've admitted. You see Ashwin, he is the number one all-rounder. He scores runs and when he comes out with the ball, he is more confident."
Batting coach Sanjay Bangar had played an important function in the turnaround, making small technical adjustments, Jayant said.
"Batting comes naturally to me and I have been working on it in the nets this series," the off-spinner, playing his first test series, told the Indian cricket board website.
"Me and Sanjay have been working on two things: one is getting my stance a bit wider so that I get more balance in the crease, and secondly, keeping my hands closer to my body so that I have better control over my hand.
"These are small technical things that we are working on. Hopefully, I continue to build from here on," the 26-year-old added.
(Editing by John O'Brien)