Indian bowlers lack penetration and look insipid after the home team folds up for 316
The Indians are discovering their shortcomings in a stark manner. If batting was an area of concern on the first day, the home team’s bowling was embarrassingly mediocre in the face of a determined England response at the Eden Gardens here on Thursday.
A sunny day produced some bright cricket, definitely enjoyable if you happened to be an English supporter. It was also enjoyable if you happened to value correct and classical cricket. That is what England produced on the second day of the third Test, finishing at 216 for one, trailing by 100 runs.
India resumed at 273 for seven and folded up for 316.
M.S. Dhoni powering his way to a half-century was a pleasant happening but India looked clueless against the England openers, Alastair Cook (136 batting) and Nick Compton (57). The robust 165-run start the two gave was just the platform England had backed itself to thrive on. This was Test cricket at its best as England grabbed the opportunity to establish an imposing grip.
Can’t bat, can’t bowl. The Indian camp faced an unprecedented situation this afternoon as Cook and Compton got down to serious business of accumulating runs. Discipline had to be the most important ingredient of their batting approach and the English openers did not relent. Confidence became an inseparable part of their vocation as Cook and Compton complemented each other with emphasis on percentage cricket.
There was hardly a false stroke from Cook and Compton; hardly a hurried shot.
True, Cook, on 17, offered Cheteshwar Pujara a tough, low chance at first slip off Zaheer Khan but that edge was a forgettable aberration in a most wonderful demonstration of batting that saw the England captain becoming the highest century maker in Tests for England. His 23rd century, fifth in succession as captain and third of this series, took him past Geoff Boycott, Colin Cowdrey, Wally Hammond and Kevin Pietersen.
If Pujara was a wrong man at first slip, the bowlers looked woefully out of place too. The bowlers toiled and looked insipid.
The seamers lacked the bite and the spinners the guile to make an impact. It was tough to recall the ball beating the bat and tougher to remember the bowler creating a semblance of a chance to snare the batsmen. Cook and Compton gave nothing away.
Air of assurance
Cook, 27, loves to grind the bowlers. This is a distinct quality that separates him from some of the best in business. An opener with the perfect grooming, Cook brings lot of dignity to the art of scoring runs. There is an air of assurance in his preparation from the time he steps on to the field, takes guard, glances at the field and settles into his stance.
The bat is always straight and footwork rarely faulty. The England captain is so good at adapting that good bowlers look commonplace when he is on strike. The Indian attack does not fall in this category. It was pedestrian this day.
Compton is said to be a stickler for training. He loves to bat and bat. One could discern it from his methods this afternoon. Nothing could tempt him into making a mistake.
He obviously places high value on his cricket and the Indians found out this day with some unpleasant treatment from the English openers. The bowlers stood exposed as Cook and Compton revelled through the day, driving the seamers and sweeping the spinners.
India’s bowlers lacked penetration and failed to contain either. The bad deliveries were punished but Cook and Compton were remarkably patient in picking the very loose deliveries. It was the right attitude against bowlers who refused to improve.
The field placements also did not match the bowling line and runs came at a fairly easy pace. Cook and Compton were the masters in the middle until the latter got a rough decision, ruled leg before after having gloved the ball.
Dhoni’s demeanour resembled that of a defeatist. He watched, in utter frustration, England take a commanding position with his counterpart leading from the front. True, Dhoni’s half century gave a glimpse of his instinct to fight but bowlers let him down with their benign stuff.
Swing, reverse-swing and turn remained alien to the Indian bowlers and Dhoni just stood helplessly, a striking contrast to the ebullient and energetic Cook.
The England captain was the undisputed performer of the day, in keeping with his reputation and stature, leaving India a worried camp.