Reverse swing, scoreboard pressure could be decisive
An unexpectedly spirited last wicket stand between Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami assisted India to post a fighting total in the first innings of the opening Test. But perhaps not an entirely secure one.
A bigger tally would have imparted greater scoreboard pressure on England and it still might, given the home side's shattered confidence after the drubbing in Australia and the defeat to Sri Lanka. But the Indians have their task cut out to ensure England don't fight back.
The odd ball kept low even on Day 1 and this could accentuate itself as the game progresses. But India's real hope is probably in reverse swing.
The surprisingly abrasive surface conspired to slant the ball the wrong away as early as the first afternoon. The Indian fast and medium paced bowlers could, consequently, benefit but you still have to exploit a windfall.
Besides, if it rains in course of the contest, as is forecasted, notwithstanding the cover on the pitch, a bit of moisture is bound to unavoidably freshen up the wicket, thereby reducing the prospect of reverse swing.
The potential of India mounting a big score rested heavily on Murali Vijay and Mahendra Singh Dhoni continuing from where they left at close of play on the first day. And they did persevere, despite the latter being dropped behind the stumps before he had added to his overnight contribution of 50.
When he was eventually run out trying to steal a single, Dhoni had reached 82 off 262 balls - a reflection of uncharacteristic but welcome patience.
Promotion to No.6 appears to have instilled in him a sense of watchfulness. If he can replicate this in more testing conditions, it would open up for India, an option of consistently playing five bowlers.
At the same time, Ravindra Jadeja was disappointing. He made hay at the expense of the off-spinner Moeen Ali but was found wanting against Ben Stokes, not exactly a front line medium pacer. And Stuart Binny, a bits and pieces cricketer making his debut, fared worse.
Three years ago, when England humiliated India 4-0 in as many Tests, an official of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) allegedly went around instructing grounds hosting the matches to prepare green tops to favour England.
This time the rumour doing the rounds are the orders from ECB were to ensure five days of cricket and not impair revenues.
Steve Birks, the head groundsman at Trent Bridge, Wednesday denied he had received any such command but he didn't sound wholly convincing. And the grass-less, slow, un-Trent Bridge-like track for the current Test remains a subject of speculation.
It is lofty to suggest a pitch shouldn't favour the hosts as long as this occurs within reason. After all, this is what home advantage is all about.
Indian groundsman frequently doctor pitches to suit spinners. So one shouldn't complain if England conjure seam friendly squares.
(Posted on 10-07-2014)