The promise showed by the players in the practice matches received and India came back to their usual self in the first test match at Lord’s. The batsmen faltered and so did the bowlers and it was a matter of divine intervention or providence that could have saved the team.
And contrary to the past wherein the Weather Gods failed to intervene ( as in the match against South Africa) and change the destiny of the Indian cricket team, the first test at Lord’s was a different script.
It so appears that once the Indian cricket team undertakes a tour of South Africa, Australia, England, or New Zealand, a strange and insecure feeling grips the team and clings to the team till they return to their homeland! This feeling makes even the ‘greats’ appear vulnerable and has affected the performance of the team in foreign countries on several occasions!
For a change, things appeared a bit different for the Indian team on this tour of England. The team (it is believed) has the necessary ingredients in the form of a proper balance in the batting and bowling department to some extent. And to some extent, the team lived up to this expectation in the practice matches that it played on English soil. One could take some heart from Sachin’s effortless batting as he appeared to be back in his elements.
But come the first Test at Lord’s and the Indians looked a transformed lot! The viewer got a vague feeling of the impending storm that was about to unleash. The bowlers on the first day looked out of sorts and sprayed the ball on both sides of the wicket.
The English batsmen made merry and galloped to a healthy score by the end of the day. The charge was led by Andrew Strauss who made the most of the wayward bowling of the Indians and scored 96 invaluable runs.
He was assisted by captain Michael Vaughan who made 79 runs. It was only during the end of the day that Indians recovered by claiming a couple of English wickets. That set in the momentum as the bowlers bowled in rhythm the next day and bundled the English team for 298 runs.
The storm in the offing unleashed and took the top order away with it in no time. Indians came out to bat with lots of hopes and aspirations but all of that was to vaporize into thin air! The batsmen failed to counter the movement of the moving ball and failed to apply to the conditions.
The same ghosts of indecision, cold feet against swing bowling, and some poor stroke play haunted the Indian team and almost took a toll on the result of the game. The entire team capitulated in the first innings for a score of 201 with the big guns heading for the pavilion without troubling the scorers much.
Only WasimJaffer made 57 with few scintillating opening batsmen strokes that were a pleasure to watch. But the big disappointment came from the don, Sachin Tendulkar, who failed to make an impression in what could be his last innings at Lords.
A lot was expected from him and the situation was conducive for a big knock but he failed to provide the spark that could have turned the tide in India’s favor. His innings of 37 runs looked uncharacteristic from his usual self and for once the knock appeared distanced from the man work knows for his trademark pulls, cuts and drives.
England in their second innings was in a spot of bother and then came to their messiah KP alias Kevin Pietersen who took them to a strong position with his century knock even as wickets fell all around him.
His knock was dipped in the typical KP style with his unorthodox approach and unique shot selection. His knock implied Indian’s in the second innings has to chase a mammoth total of 298 runs and the odds looked to be stacked in favor of the host.
Then started the usual collapse with Jaffer departing early. He was followed by Dravid and the master Tendulkar who could only score 17 odd runs. Ganguly hung around for some time and scored 40 runs but it was primarily the effort of Dinesh Karthik and Mahendra Singh Dhoni that saved the day for India apart from the rains. Dhoni made 76 and stayed unbeaten till the end while Karthik scored 60.
For the host, it was a highly frustrating moment being so close to a test victory and yet so far while from the Indian point of view, only divine intervention could have saved the team and the almighty did not let the team down unlike the players themselves who had resigned to their fate!
Perhaps playing overseas comes with its share of certain watermarks such as poor adaptability, lack of application, and lackluster performance intermingled with lagoons of excellence! The interruption by the rain came as a face-saving grace for the team that had its fate sealed.
The team needs to pull its bootstraps and put the thinking cap before the next test match if it wants to make amends. The weather gods were helpful once but lightning does not strike twice! Indians better else its defeat was written on the English wall!!