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The mighty Indians bite the dust

The top-ranked Test side once again failed miserably in England

The mighty Indians bite the dust

Indian cricket team’s tour to England is going to end with another overseas Test series defeat. Whatever the result of the ongoing fifth Test at Oval, England win the Test series.

At the beginning of the series, the expectations from Kohli and company were high. India were desperate to win the series in England to end their disappointing overseas’ record and maintain their domination in the longest format of the game, but they failed to capitalise on the opportunity created by the  weather in England which should have made batting easier for them.

In the past five years, India have won just one of their six Test series outside Asia, against a struggling West Indies. It was India’s straight third Test series loss in England. Pakistan, on the other hand, remained unbeaten in their last two series.

England, despite the top order failure, managed to take revenge of the embarrassing series defeat at the hands of India when they toured that country in 2015-16. The victory extends a run during which England have lost only one home series since 2012.

Despite having the world’s strongest batting line, India faced difficulty in the top order. In the last seven Tests, only twice have India retained the opening pair.

Openers play an important role, especially in a Test match under seaming English conditions. It is very important for the openers to see off the new ball and wait for bad balls.

But the three Indian openers, Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul, failed to withstand Anderson’s and Broad’s swing.

Kohli was the only one to cause English bowlers trouble.

India failed to down a small target after taking control initially in two Tests. In the first Test at Birmingham and the fourth at Southampton, India were close to win but on both occasions their famed batting collapsed when they were just a few steps away.

The first Test should have gone India’s way but they fell short by 31 runs and the fourth Test by 60 runs.

India also lost in South Africa earlier this year, although they were to chase a modest total of 209 runs.

Only in the third Test at Nottingham, India were able to dominate, eventually beating England by 203 runs.

To win a Test series against the world’s top side with a match to spare is a wonderful performance by Root & company. It was not easy with the top order struggling and the hot weather supporting the Indians. But their fast bowlers and all-rounders managed to keep India under pressure most of the time.

Surprisingly, in the fourth Test Indian batsmen fell against off-spinner Moeen Ali who did his job brilliantly as he bowled consistently into the rough areas and ran through their side not once but twice, taking five and four wickets in the two innings, to seal the series.

But on the other hand, Indian ace spinner Ravichandran Ashwin failed to utilise the same conditions. Instead of using rough marks, he consistently bowled at a higher pace on a track where spinners are expected to bowl at a slower pace.

Individually, it was a memorable series for Kohli as in the first four Tests he scored 544 runs, averaging 68, with two centuries and three fifties. Before the current series, Kohli did not have an impressive record in England. In 2014, Kohli managed only 134 runs in five Tests. He received a reward for his outstanding performance as he secured the top position in the ICC Test ranking.

England’s top order also struggled through the series. Openers Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings failed to provide a solid foundation to their middle-order, scoring only 109 and 130, respectively, in four Tests.

It was all-rounders and lower order batsmen who saved the home side.

India’s inconsistent selection also disturbed the batsmen. No one other than Kohli was assured of a place in the Test lineup. And no player knew what position he would have.

The fourth Test at Southampton was the first instance of Kohli playing the same XI in two consecutive Tests ever since he became the captain in December 2014.

In the Edgbaston and Southampton Tests, India had the upper hand after removing the top six English batsmen cheaply but gave away runs to the tail-enders generously.

After a disappointing series, out-of-form Cook announced that he would retire from international cricket after the fifth Test against India at The Oval.

Cook made his Test debut against India at Nagpur in 2006. Cook is England’s all-time leading Test run-scorer with 12,254 runs at an average of 44.88. He had scored 32 hundreds before the fifth Test against India.

Khurram Mahmood

Khurram Mahmood 2019

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