England sweats over catching, Indians catch football on break

India will have difficult memories of the Ageas Bowl, where four years ago one dropped catch arguably turned a series on its head.

K.L. Rahul took some brilliant catches during the third Test against England.   -  K. Murali Kumar

India's cricketers will head to Southampton on Monday, after a well-deserved break following the end of the third Test.

They have been enjoying their time off in London, K.L. Rahul, Umesh Yadav and Jasprit Bumrah even visiting the Emirates Stadium for Arsenal vs. West Ham on Saturday.

India will have difficult memories of the Ageas Bowl, where four years ago one dropped catch arguably turned a series on its head.

In 2014, India travelled to Southampton with a 1-0 lead, having drawn the first Test at Trent Bridge and won the second at Lord's.

On the first morning of the third Test, an under-fire Alastair Cook was on 15 when he was dropped by Ravindra Jadeja at third slip.

The match was 10 overs old then and the bowler, Pankaj Singh, a man who had toiled relentlessly in domestic cricket, was making his debut.

Cook went on to make 95, and England 569. Pankaj finished the innings with none for 146. India went on to lose that Test and the subsequent two.

England won the series, Cook saved his captaincy, and Pankaj played only one more game for India: the dropped catch did not perhaps cause all of it, but it certainly did not help.

This time around, there is one team fretting over its slip-catching and it's not India. England's fielders have shelled - by most estimates - 15 chances this series and it has clearly cost their side.

At Edgbaston, Dawid Malan dropped Virat Kohli on 21 and 51 in the first innings. England still won but Kohli made 149 - a knock that will come to be seen as one of the finest of his career.

Who knows how things may have turned out had he been dismissed by James Anderson for 21 on his first outing this tour.

At Trent Bridge, Jos Buttler spilled Cheteshwar Pujara on 40 in the second innings; he went on to score 72, only his second Test half-century in 13 innings.

Sometimes, one knock is all it takes a player to turn his form around. Malan, Cook, Keaton Jennings, and Ollie Pope have all put catches down this series. Catching is often about confidence and it is no surprise that Cook and Jennings - out of form with the bat – have been two of the biggest offenders.

"We think we’ve got some good catchers, but you can’t keep shelling chances the way we are," England's assistant coach, Paul Farbrace, admitted at Trent Bridge.

"That comes down to two things: concentration not being good enough, or confidence. When you start to miss chances that starts to eat away at you. When bowlers are creating opportunities and catches are being dropped, that can be soul-destroying. Nobody means to drop a catch, but we are shelling too many."

India's fielders have also dropped catches over the last four weeks but nowhere near as many as England.

The touring side was head and shoulders above its opponent during the third Test, Rahul alone holding seven in the match.

The Karnataka man was excellent at second slip, although England's ineptitude this series perhaps makes even regulation catches appear better than they are.

Rahul deserves credit, though, for catching has not been one of India's stronger suits recently.

It was an issue in South Africa, where notably Shikhar Dhawan reprieved Keshav Maharaj in Cape Town and Parthiv Patel let off Hashim Amla at Centurion. Both opportunities were significant in the context of those games.

"If you have fast bowlers in the line-up you got to help them out by taking catches," India's head coach Ravi Shastri said in Nottingham.

"Rahul was outstanding; when you see someone catching like that it makes a huge difference. It keeps you for a shorter time in the field – let's put it that way."

Rahul had to remain at second slip, Shastri acknowledged. "You have to keep him there as it comes naturally to him," he said.

"He has been a wicket-keeper at the U-19 level, so he has a good pair of hands. And slips-catching, like batting and bowling, is all about confidence. Once you start taking those catches, your mind starts believing you can catch anything."

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