England’s batting line-up looks weak and vulnerable to both pace and spin bowling, feels veteran spinner Harbhajan Singh, who backed India to clinch the five-Test series after its dominating 203-run win in the third Test here.
Lagging 0-2 after losing the first two Tests, India produced a stupendous performance at Trent Bridge, dismissing England’s second innings for 317 to register a massive 203-run win on Wednesday.
“The English batting line-up looks more problematic than the Indian batting at the moment. They are playing as if they are touring India, and not the other way round,” said Harbhajan.
“Their batting line-up is vulnerable to both pace and spin, and they look weak. Some of their first-choice batsmen have an ordinary record in domestic cricket, averaging 30-35 at best.
“In India, you have to average over 50 to be even considered. They have good depth in ODI cricket but in Tests, their batting has not done much,” he added.
Harbhajan feels the Indian team copped a lot of unnecessary flak after going down 0-2, but now at 1-2, the series is still wide open.
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“It is not easy to come and play in England. You cannot say that previous Indian teams did better here. Apart from 2007, when did we last win a series in England? We tend to overreact easily and criticise too early,” he said.
“It takes time to get used to conditions in England. You can practice as much as you want but match conditions are different from nets. The Birmingham Test was so close, and if India had won there narrowly (instead of losing), we wouldn’t have had so much criticism and the series would currently be 2-1 to India instead.”
Harbhajan, who has taken 417 wickets in 103 Tests, feels conditions will favour India at Oval Test and the visitors might think of playing two spinners. “After such a performance I back India to win the next Test in Southampton, and then anything can happen in the Oval Test. At the Oval, we could get a true Indian wicket with lot of bounce and lateral movement is less there as well,” he said.
“So, conditions could favour India and we could even play two spinners. I think India have a very good chance (of winning the series 3-2).”
Harbhajan, 38, feels India were unlucky in Lord’s as their batting faltered in a match affected by rain.
“At Lord’s conditions were very bad. England batsmen would have struggled there too, but India had bad luck. The Birmingham match was close. The big difference in this match was that India were able to put runs on the board,” he said.
“In such conditions, if you put 350 runs on the board, then India will be in the game. It was about putting your mind into it and how you can put those runs on the board,” he added.
Praising the Indian bowling attack, Harbhajan said, “Once you put runs on the board, you can see the difference. In one spell, Hardik Pandya changed the game, which is a great thing from India’s point of view.
“India has a great bowling attack now, which they didn’t earlier. We had only Zaheer Khan and someone else trying to chip in, but now we have three good bowlers and now we also have a fourth in Pandya.
“In this match, he was matching up in terms of swing and pace to all other three pacers. It’s a blessing to have three-four proper pacers in the playing eleven, which has never happened before in the history of Indian cricket that I have played in, or seen.”