India concede advantage to England

Southampton: India downsized their bowlers from five in the first two Tests to four in the third, which started here Sunday. It was a decision based on the tourists concluding the wicket would help bowlers.

This transpired to be a misreading of the wicket; although it is fair to say hardly anyone deciphered otherwise.

Contrary to expectations, there wasn`t much pace or bounce in the surface. However, as the track dries out and hardens, it could get faster, without encouraging much seam movement. As matters stand, unlike the first two tests, it could be India`s turn to encounter scoreboard pressure.

Given the experience in the previous test at Lord`s, in which India`s fourth seamer Stuart Binny wasn`t called upon to bowl in the second innings, the visitors opted for Rohit Sharma to bat at number six (where captain Mahendra Dhoni looked uneasy on a bowler friendly pitch at Lord`s), omitting Binny.

The thinking was to strengthen the batting in anticipation of bowlers obtaining assistance. In the event, this turned out to be a defensive move. More damagingly, four bowlers will have to shoulder strain of hurling down the leather on a good batting track, where a fifth exponent would have eased the burden and rendered the attack more penetrative.

India`s woes began even before Dhoni lost the toss. Ishant Sharma, the match-winner at Lord`s and the most seasoned of the Indian bowlers, was ruled out of the playing XI due to an ankle injury.

And this was compounded when Ravindra Jadeja floored a regulation chance to his correct side (he being a left-hander) at third slip off the England skipper Alastair Cook. Debutante Pankaj Singh was the bowler to suffer. The left-hander was then only on 15.

The importance of dismissing Cook early cannot be over-emphasised. He has been short of runs for a year. After three poor innings in the first two tests in the present series and his continuance as captain in doubt, a fourth successive failure was bound to put pressure on the home side, for when the helmsman is down this transmits through his side.

Consequently, the drop was not just costly in terms of runs, but expensive psychologically and a virtual frittering away of the advantage India hitherto enjoyed.

To what extent India`s errors come to haunt them will soon be evident.

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