NOTTINGHAM, United Kingdom, Aug 22 – India’s dominant 203-run win in the third Test at Trent Bridge cut England’s lead in the five-match series to 2-1.
Below AFP Sport looks at five things we learned from the match:
England’s top-order woes
In home conditions England have long been ‘getting away’ with top-order collapses, with their all-rounders often bailing out the innings.
But there was no hiding from the problem at Trent Bridge, where an inadequate first-innings score of 161 saw them lose all 10 wickets in a session.
Damningly, both innings saw then four down with under 100 runs on the scoreboard.
The way Jos Buttler, whose 106 was his maiden Test century, and Ben Stokes (62) batted in a second-innings stand of 169 was a lesson in resilience for their top-order team-mates.
And whatever the rights and wrongs of recalling Stokes just days following his acquittal on a charge of affray following an incident outside a Bristol nightclub in September last year, the all-rounder demonstrated an encouraging ability to play against his natural attacking inclination during the slowest fifty of his Test career.
Since Andrew Strauss retired six years ago, England have tried out 12 batsmen in a so far unsuccessful attempt to find a reliable opening partner for Alastair Cook.
But with plenty of questions hanging over current incumbent Keaton Jennings, England now face the thorny issue of what, if anything to do about Cook — their national record Test run-scorer.
For some time now the 33-year-old left-hander has been scoring enough runs to retain his place but not enough to set up England wins as he did in years past.
His double century against Australia on a flat pitch in Melbourne in December helped England to a battling draw but by then they were well on the way to a 4-0 Ashes series defeat.
Former captain Cook, who this year averages a meagre 19.21, may end his world record run of 158 consecutive Test appearances if the fourth Test in Southampton clashes with the birth of his third child. But it is far from obvious who should replace him if that’s the case.
Catches win matches — for India
India’s fielding often used to be the source of plenty of jokes but no longer, with England’s close-catching another of the headaches confronting captain Joe Root.
At Trent Bridge, India second slip KL Rahul held seven catches alone, a huge boost to a team increasingly reliant on pace-bowling.
India’s pace depth
This match saw the return to Test duty from injury of 24-year-old India fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah, who rocked England with a three-wicket new-ball burst during a marathon stint of 26 overs on Tuesday before finishing with impressive second-innings figures of five for 85. He received excellent support from Ishant Sharma, particularly skilled at bowling to left-handed batsmen, and all-rounder Hardik Pandya, who stunned England with a first-innings five for 28.
It is a remarkable transformation to an attack where spinners traditionally held sway and should give India a greater chance to be truly competitive abroad.
England meanwhile remain understandably reliant on their all-time most successful bowlers James Anderson and Stuart Broad, who have nearly 1,000 Test wickets between them. But, as with Cook, it is not clear who takes over when they are gone.
Kohli’s iron will
Some great batsmen have an ability to shape games almost as much through sheer force of personality as by skill and technique. All those qualities were on display as India captain Virat Kohli made 97 and 103 just days after his side were twice bowled out cheaply during an innings defeat in the second Test at Lord’s.
Significantly, Kohli also received top-order support from Ajinkya Rahane (81) and Cheteshwar Pujara (72) in each innings, which again raised questions over how much better India might have been this series had they had more than just the one warm-up game against Essex — a four-day fixture cut to three at the tourists’ request.