India, England will look to lord it over each other

SWEATING IT OUT: The Indian players go through the drills during a practice session at Lord's on the eve of the second Test starting on Thursday.

SWEATING IT OUT: The Indian players go through the drills during a practice session at Lord's on the eve of the second Test starting on Thursday.  

A touch of controversy provides the backdrop to the second Test at the hallowed venue

Lord’s, cricket’s historical heart, is supposed to be awash with nostalgia and the gentle world of civility, more so in its bicentenary year. In the 2013 edition of Wisden India Almanack, Kamila Shamsie wrote: “You never know what a day at Lord’s might bring, except this: whatever the result, the mood won’t turn ugly.”

Blame it on the ultra-competitive streak that spills even outside the boundary ropes these days as the air around this hallowed venue now has a touch of controversy ahead of the second Test starting here on Thursday.

India’s protest about James Anderson’s run-in with Ravindra Jadeja at Trent Bridge, and the England and Wales Cricket Board’s riposte that hinted at a tit-for-tat complaint, has queered the pitch.

The pre-match press conferences hinged on this topic. Alastair Cook admitted to being surprised and felt that the issue had got his team tighter. M.S. Dhoni reiterated that what happened was wrong and he and his team had no choice but to press charges.

The whispers on the sidelines continued and after a drawn first Test, the series has slipped into gamesmanship.

If England and India jostle for the moral high-ground off the field, a near-equal battle was witnessed at Trent Bridge. Largely, the batsmen including the tail, dominated with the bowlers being reduced to bit-players except when Ishant Sharma (third day afternoon) and Stuart Broad (fifth day morning) dished out their incisive spells.

India will take heart from the runs that almost all its batsmen made, including Murali Vijay’s ton, Stuart Binny’s resilient knock and a few other cameos.

Lone sore point

The lone sore point was Virat Kohli’s failure in both innings to capitalise upon a placid pitch (1 and 8).

He has relished the challenge of notching hundreds overseas, be it South Africa or New Zealand, and what better place than Lord’s to raise your bat and join the honours board that has diverse Indian centurions like Dilip Vengsarkar (thrice) and Ajit Agarkar (once).

Much was speculated about Dhoni’s bold move to step in with five bowlers in the first Test before the pitch’s siesta hampered his initiation of Binny as the support seamer. The Lord’s pitch with its tinge of green — but one that was considerably slow when Sri Lanka played last month — will add to the doubts.

Team composition

If practice sessions are any yardstick to go by, Dhoni may well stick to his ‘three seamers, one all-rounder and a lone spinner’ ploy but he added a line at the media interaction: “The composition of the team, will depend on the pitch.”

England too has its bowling woes and they are largely centred on spin, a cupboard that remains bare after Graeme Swann’s retirement and Monty Panesar’s personal diversions.

“It is a shallow pond. We need to do more to get more spin bowlers playing,” said Peter Such, England’s spin bowling coach, in a chat with the local dailies.

The desperation has forced the host management to recall Simon Kerrigan.

The left-arm spinner struggled in his previous Test, the one at The Oval in the Ashes last year, bowling eight overs and conceding 53.

This summer, he has grabbed 28 wickets for Lancashire and Cook and coach Peter Moores believe that Kerrigan might get a role if the surface at Lord’s stays dry.

It would also be interesting to see if India’s complaint will wind up Anderson and provoke him into a blistering spell. Suffering a long drought with the bat, Cook will also be taxed by the questions around his spearhead.

Lead bowlers seem to have it tough when India and England face-off at Lord’s.

In 2011, Zaheer Khan limped out after a combined spell of 13.3-8-18-2 and India never recovered despite Rahul Dravid’s ton. It is Anderson’s turn now to suffer from stress, mostly psychological.

India believes it is self-inflicted.

The teams (from): India: M.S. Dhoni (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, Gautam Gambhir, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Varun Aaron, Pankaj Singh, Stuart Binny, Ishwar Pandey and Wriddhiman Saha.

England: Alastair Cook (captain), Ian Bell, Gary Ballance, Sam Robson, Joe Root, Moeen Ali, Matt Prior, James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Chris Jordan, Liam Plunkett, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes and Simon Kerrigan.

Umpires: Kumar Dharmasena & Bruce Oxenford; Third umpire: Richard Illingworth; Match referee: David Boon.

Play starts at 3.30 p.m. IST.

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Printable version | Apr 3, 2020 4:01:24 AM |

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