India’s tour of England has so far lived up to the expectations with the first test decided by a close margin of 31 runs. Already the T20 and ODI series were hotly contested with both sides winning one trophy each. In such closely played matches, it becomes imperative to look at key battles which might have impacted the outcome.
Virat Kohli vs Root
While Virat Kohli has comfortably outnumbered Root as a batsman, Root however has now started showing signs of comfort in his new role. Given the swing available, Root handed the ball to Adil Rashid only reluctantly, however, Root while employing his pacers kept the pressure on despite India came closer to the winning target. Kohli employed third man during most of the match as a run saving position instead of an additional attacking fielder in the slip cordon. Chances were created especially on 1st day once Root and Bairstow were batting, however, slip cordon was made to stand with gaps thus allowing them to cover more area, a risky ploy nonetheless.
Kohli deserves credit for using Ashwin early in both innings to target left handed opening batsmen and Ashwin obliged with the wicket of Cook early on in both innings. Given the fact that Ashwin fares better against left handers and England played this test match with as many as seven left handed batsmen, it is expected that Ashwin will definitely have one devastating spell in upcoming matches either at Lords or Oval where spinners get more assistance.
The visible problem seen in Root’s leadership was once Kohli led the charge against English seamers. Root and his bowlers lacked Plan B and played the waiting game. To their good luck no other Indian batsman was willing to dig in otherwise Kohli might have run away with the match in 1st innings alone.
The Batting Performances
Not much is there to write about the batting results except Virat Kohli who scored a whopping 200 runs in match, however, his team mates could only accumulate 214 runs in 18 innings. Imagine if any one of them has shown more spine, we may have seen a different result. Basing on this performance Kohli has become number 1 Test batsman in latest rankings. English batsmen could not fare well as well. Root and Bairstow played well in 1st innings with contribution from Keaton Jennings, however, the star performer remained Sam Curran who scored a magnificent counter attacking fifty once England were reduced to 87/7 in 2nd innings. Likely cause of dismal performance is the amount of movement experienced throughout the test match which troubled both set of batsmen.
The Bowling Performances
England look assured about their starting XI in this match with the exception of addition of Adil Rashid. Adil had already announced that he won’t be playing red ball cricket and his call up to the team on the back of strong showing in limited overs caused divided opinions. English bowlers bowled like a unit with everyone contributing in both innings. Curran in 1st innings and Stokes in 2nd innings earned accolades for their performances. Restricting a strong Indian batting line up to mediocre totals is a tough job and they did it well. Their figures might have improved if catches had not been dropped especially of Kohli.
India, however did not have their first choice seam attack in the form of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jaspreet Bumrah and instead relied on trio of Ishant Sharma, Muhammad Shami and Umesh Yadav. However, they were good especially in 2nd innings, once Ishant Sharma took three wickets in an over. Ashwin once tipped to be a home bully has broken the shackles and is doing well outside Asia as well. Indian bowlers were lucky with the wickets in 1st innings once Jennings and Bairstow played on and Root got run out taking a needless run.
Likely Changes for Lords
Pujara dropped in favor of KL Rahul may return to the side in next test, who was selected as third opener in the squad and has failed to impress in this test. India might be tempted to bring in Ravi Jadeja in place of Hardik Pandya at Lords given the assistance available for spinners.
Ben Stokes is not available for Lords as he will be facing trial for the brawl outside Bristol that took place last year and is likely to be replaced by Moeen Ali. David Malan is not able to put together a notable performance and his time might have come to an end after a poor performance in Edgbaston. A newer face from county circles is likely to be given chance ahead of him.