August 9 to 13
Live on SPN, streaming on SonyLiv
The main picture
India contrived to lose the Test match because their batting was flimsy. And because they came so close to winning, they take a significant baggage to Lord’s, where they will be under immense pressure invited onto themselves by the loss in Birmingham.
India lost the toss and, realistically, were at a disadvantage bowling first on a pitch that was good for batting. England then, riding on half-centuries from Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow, propelled themselves to 216/3, at which point India had genuine reasons to be worried. This was in the third session on day one.
Their backlash, however, began then… with Virat Kohli running out his opposite number with an athletic piece of fielding. England were bowled out for 287 and, from the position they once were in, India had gotten themselves back into the Test match. A good batting performance was all that was needed for India to put themselves in the driver’s seat, but familiar problems surfaced and India never took the match by the scruff of the neck (though they were in business two more times in the Test match).
Before the series began, the Indian camp emphasised the need and the proven ability of the bowlers to take 20 wickets! You wonder, for a moment, if the current team management understand that in overseas conditions, the batsmen (and not the bowlers) are the ones who have to make the difference. (Particularly given India’s tendency to collapse as a batting unit and the trouble batsmen have against swing, seam and pace bowling on the tours of Australia, England, New Zealand, and South Africa.)
Of course, the team selection for the first Test was pragmatic and the fact remains the batsmen must raise their game. But the emphasis has to be on solid, defiant batting, maybe as much as on taking 20 wickets.
Ravichandran Ashwin’s new-found potency and Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma’s incisive pace bowling are among the positives to come out of the loss for India.
For England too, the focus will be on getting solid as a batting unit. Despite having a long batting line-up and playing in home conditions, the English batsmen struggled against India’s potent bowling attack. If not for Sam Curran’s 63 in the second innings, England might well have lost the first Test.
The key will be to nullify Ashwin, who particularly tormented the left-hand batsmen in the English batting line-up in the first Test. Ollie Pope is one of the changes in the England squad for the second Test, replacing Dawid Malan, with Chris Woakes coming in for Ben Stokes. A right-hander, Pope will be an ideal replacement for Malan in terms of potentially stymying Ashwin’s threat.
Having had a feel of the opposition, you can expect England and India to be better prepared for the second Test.
India vs England head to head in Test
India and England have played 118 Tests to date, with the latter holding a 44-25 record; 49 Tests have ended in draws.
On English soil, England have won 31 of the 58 Tests, six of which have been won by India and 21 have ended in a draw.
The team who bat better will give themselves a good chance of winning. With the Dukes ball offering considerable assistance for a good length of time and the bowling attacks proving incisive, the batting line-ups have to make the difference.