England vs. India: Learnings from the first Test
England and India have completed their first Test match of the 2021 Summer at Trent Bridge. The competitive beginning of the 5-match Test series ended in a draw as the entire last day was washed out due to relentless rain in Nottingham.
Although the Test match ended in a Draw, India was in the strength position thanks to their superior bowling show in the first innings. Jasprit Bumrah looked to be back in form, and he got good support from Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, and Shardul Thakur to bowl out England for just 183 in the first innings. India took a 95-run lead midway thanks to gritty knocks from KL Rahul, and Ravindra Jadeja as England bowling looked one-dimensional and maybe a bowler short. James Anderson continued his good show and became the third-highest overall wicket-taker in Test cricket.
England produced a better batting show in the second innings thanks to their captain Joe Root. After scoring 64 in the first innings, Root scored his 21st Test century in the second innings. However, Bumrah picked up his 6th Test five-far and restricted England to 303. Chasing 209 for a memorable win, India finished Day 4 on 52/1, but the rain gods had the final say as a potentially exciting day’s cricket was lost, and teams moved to London to play the second Test with scores being even.
Learnings from Nottingham Test
Despite the draw, there are quite a few interesting aspects to notice which may dictate how the series will turn out for both teams.
Indian Opening Combination
KL Rahul remained an enigma in the longer format. The stylish right-hander has played just 37 Tests in 7 years at different positions and, despite some memorable innings, could not cement his place as he did in white-ball cricket. He made a comeback in this Test almost after two years and looked solid. However, consistency is an issue with Rahul, and whether he can continue this form in the rest of the series would be something critical for India’s chances.
However, with Mayank Agarwal being fit and Prithvi Shaw available for selection, Rahul gives a good cover to the selectors. If they want to play Rahul in the middle order, they can always opt for anyone between Mayank and Prithvi, which gives much more flexibility in the team selection.
Indian Middle order needs to pull their weight
For the last couple of years, India’s premier batters Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, and Cheteshwar Pujara are going through some very mediocre phases in their careers. They did play against some of the top bowling attacks in this phase in difficult conditions, but it still does not justify their numbers. Since the start of 2020, the Test averages of Kohli, Rahane, and Pujara are 23.00, 27.00, and 25.85! These are shocking numbers from the players who are considered some of the World’s best players. Only 1 Test century has been scored among these three batters. Even in the Trent Bridge Test, India was in a tricky situation despite a very good opening combination. The trio contributed just 9 runs among them.
India had a good chance of getting a 1-0 lead in the series, which did not happen due to rain. But England will not give as many chances. If India wants to compete hard and get the elusive Test series victory in England, captain Kohli needs to fire along with Pujara and Rahane, making a meaningful contribution.
Jadeja needs to play to add the balance
Ravindra Jadeja kept showing his value for India’s team balance. Coming to bat at number 7, after Rishabh Pant, he built an important 60-run partnership with Rahul and also contributed with his own 16th Test fifty. This is a key position for India, and there were lots of debate before the Test match to decide who should be the right person for this job. But with his current batting form and ability, Jadeja is an undisputed choice for this, and although he did not get enough chance to bowl at Trent Bridge, his bowling will come in handy against an English lineup who does not fancy spin much. He also adds lots of value with his fielding, as shown in New Zealand and Australia.
Bowlers are India’s biggest strength at this moment
India went without two of their most experienced bowlers in Ishant Sharma and Ravichandran Ashwin but still did not look weak with their attack. Bumrah looked like he found the right length to bowl in England. Shami was as penetrative as ever and was also slightly unlucky like the last tour. He will hope that his luck will change, and a big haul will be round the corner. Siraj bowled with lots of skill, and even Shardul Thakur, India’s fourth-choice pacer, provided key breakthroughs in both innings.
Clearly, Indians have lots of variation in their bowling and have players who can perfectly exploit the swinging condition in England. They will look to keep pressure on the English batting throughout the series and win important game moments. India also showed that they are really flexible with their attack, and Ishant Sharma, when he gets fit, and Ashwin can come back any time depending on the team management’s condition or strategy.
England is too dependent on Root
Batting is one of the weak areas for England in recent times, and it was again evident in the first Test. Their young players like Rory Burns, Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, and Dan Lawrence all got starts but failed to convert into decisive big innings, which can change the course of a game. They should look to learn from their captain Root, who is currently looking like England’s only hope for a big score. They can also bring Ollie Pope in the next Test match in place of Lawrence of Jonny Bairstow to add more meat to their batting.
England needs some variation in bowling
Ben Stokes’ absence was a big blow for England in both the departments and impacted their balance severely. England opted to play six batters and a wicketkeeper in the first Test, resulting in only four premier bowling options. They also went with a four-man pace attack involving experienced Anderson, Stuart Broad, young Ollie Robinson, and Sam Curran. They opted to go without a spinner and dropped Jack Leach, who should have been added some variation. With Broad lacking fire and Curran failed to maintain pressure, England’s bowling was too dependent on Anderson and Robinson, and they had to bowl long spells. These are not good sightings for England at the start of a long summer, and they would hope that other bowlers also take their responsibility.
They have already added Moeen Ali to their squad for the second Test. Moeen has an exceptional bowling record against India and is certain to play in place of one of their batters. This should give more balance to England and pose some more threat for the Indian batting lineup.