Bowlers need to take 20 wickets to win you games, but it is the batsmen who have to complement them by putting up a decent total.
Other than Virat Kohli, none of the other batters stood up in the first two Tests. In Trent Bridge, there was a change in the trend as the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane stroked half-centuries to give their skipper able support.
As a result, India posted decent totals in both innings, giving their bowlers the confidence and time to bowl out the opposition.
Despite the result, though, batting remains an area of concern for India. Kohli has been in rip-roaring form, almost impervious. The others, though, have come up short most often than not. The performance in Nottingham does augur well for the visitors but these batsmen will be under pressure to show consistency.
There’s an argument which says that the batsmen got a raw deal in both games as the conditions turned against them. They finally caught a break in the third Test. The performance should give the batsmen some much-needed confidence.
And on eve of the game, Kohli hinted that the team will remain unchanged.
“As things stand, we don’t feel the need to change anything,” skipper Kohli suggested ahead of the fourth Test in Southampton. Prima facie it appears unlikely that the team management will tinker with the playing XI. However, Kohli isn’t averse to making changes on a whim.
Young Prithvi Shaw is an option for one of the opening slots. However, dropping Shikhar Dhawan again would be a harsh call after his decent performance in the third Test after missing the second. KL Rahul was not too bad with the bat, but his impressive slip catching might just ensure a place for him in the playing XI.
Need for better application
It is difficult to say if Shaw’s entry into the XI can make an immediate impact. The onus will be on the duo to come good as there’s another threat that faces them thanks to the Mumbai youngster’s presence on the bench. Shot selection has been their biggest bane. With James Anderson an ever-present threat, such indiscipline is unlikely to go unpunished.
Again, Pujara and Rahane can’t take it easy. While their knocks proved crucial, they still played second fiddle to Kohli who, luckily for India, came good as has been the norm.
Reports had suggested that the wicket in Southampton would be a green top. However, England’s selection choice point towards a drier surface. By picking Moeen Ali as an all-rounder, England have already ensured a line-up that bats deeper.
Of all the Test venues in England, Southampton has the highest runs per wicket average - 34.10 - in first class cricket. Hence, the batsmen will be confident of delivering a good show.
Pujara and Rahane’s batting effort went a long way in providing India the base in Trent Bridge as they provided steady support to Kohli in either innings. The opening pair of Dhawan and Rahul too batted steadily. If keeper-batsman Rishabh Pant and all-rounder Hardik Pandya chip in, then India’s batting looks more than formidable.
Replicating a bright performance, though, isn’t an easy ask. Consistency has been lacking among the ranks for some time now. It’s effects have been felt regularly on overseas tours and it was no different early in this series.
The bowling has been exceptional from both sides. It is the failure of the batting department which has led to either team’s downfall in the three Tests so far.
Chances are high that the weaker batting order will trigger an adverse result. In India’s case a win is crucial if their aim is to win the series. It will be a test of their character. They have shown some fight already, they will want to make it a habit now. There’s no better time for it than in Southampton.