India were pretty much the better side for the first two days of the contest but still lost the first Test against England with a day to spare. In the end, the difference between the two sides was that none of the home side’s batters were able to convert their innings into a big hundred.
Three India batters were dismissed in the 80s — Yashasvi Jaiswal (80), KL Rahul (86) and Ravindra Jadeja (87). After restricting England to 246 on Day 1 of the Test, India replied with 436 but they had the opportunity to go past 500, which would have put the game beyond the visitors.
India coach Rahul Dravid said his team should have got around 500-mark in the first innings. “I thought we left probably 70 runs on the board in our first innings when conditions were pretty good to bat on Day 2. In those kind of situations, we got ourselves into some good starts and didn’t really capitalise. We didn’t get someone scoring a really big 100. I just felt we left those 70-80 runs back in the hut in the first innings,” he said after the game.
In the quest to maintain a high tempo, the art of playing the long innings is being sacrificed. The importance of it was shown by England’s Ollie Pope whose epic 196 will go down as one of the best innings played in India. The challenge for Dravid is to get his young players to strike a balance between run-rate and being responsible for converting it into big scores once set.
“You have to strike that balance; of course, you are looking to score runs and you’re looking to move the game along, and sometimes it comes off, sometimes it doesn’t. I mean, they (England) were playing very positively as well. And in the second innings, certainly they executed that exceptionally well.
“Look, I wouldn’t be too harsh, you know (KL) Rahul got a really short ball, (it’s) one of those things, can go straight into deep midwicket’s hands. But I thought even in the first innings, we could have converted some of those starts and probably got us closer to 500. Having said that, I thought 190 was a really good lead. Then again, not many teams come in and score 420 in the third innings in India. And not many players get 196. So well done!”
Indian spinners also had a disappointing game, allowing England to get to 420 in the second innings on a turning pitch. It’s rare to see overseas batters come in and take on the spinners, preventing them from bowling their best ball. R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel were put under pressure by the England batters with sweeps and reverse sweeps. Dravid was impressed by how Pope and England’s openers batted, but he was confident his seasoned spinners will find a counter for the remaining Tests.
“We just got to get more disciplined with where we pitch the ball, and we will work on it. We’ve got some world-class spinners and it is not the first time that they’ve been challenged. One of the good things about our spinners is that they’ve always bounced back. You know, and I think Pope truly played an exceptional innings. If somebody does something exceptional, we’ll shake his hand and congratulate him. I haven’t seen a better exhibition of sweeping and reverse sweeping in these conditons.” Dravid said he has not seen better execution of the reverse sweep than in Pope’s innings.
“Having said that, for us now, it’s important that we respond and come up with some plans and strategies and see how we can maybe make him play those shots from probably even more difficult lengths. We need to be even more disciplined, even more meticulous with our execution, because I thought our execution went off. Hopefully in the next Test if we get our execution right, then I hope he (Pope) makes a mistake.”
Compared to England’s positive second innings batting display, India capitulated. Dravid felt the conditions had become too tough for batting. “To be honest, 230 was a pretty challenging score on this wicket in the fourth innings. It’s always going to be challenging in India (on a fourth day pitch). We shouldn’t have been chasing 230 but exceptional innings (by Ollie Pope). I think that really was the difference in the game.”