Worries for England but India has reasons to be wary

After hanging on for a draw at Rajkot, India had soared to a thumping victory in the second Test here. But then, three more Tests remain and memories of 2012, when England bounced back from being a Test down to triumph in the series, are all too fresh.

Ravichandran Ashwin, Virat Kohli Indian skipper, India v England, Test series

As captain, Kohli had his finger on the pulse of the game for most part. Ashwin, his intent aggressive, continues to grow in stature as an all-rounder.   -  PTI

As dust settled on the second Test and the fragrance of victory swirled around the Indian camp, there was a realisation that, emotions of the moment aside, the series has to be closed out.

After hanging on for a draw at Rajkot, India had soared to a thumping victory in the second Test here. But then, three more Tests remain and memories of 2012, when England bounced back from being a Test down to triumph in the series, are all too fresh.

Game changer

Yet, this England team does not have a game changer such as the mercurial Kevin Pietersen or spinners of the quality of Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar. And there is a question mark over the fitness of influential seamer Stuart Broad in what could prove pivotal for the third Test at Mohali.

As worries mount for England, there were many positives for India from the second Test. To its credit, the host achieved its win on a pitch the deteriorated gradually, and not a rank turner.

The form of Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli at No. 3 and 4 does add weight to the line-up. Without losing his solidity, Pujara is able to rotate the strike more effectively and lending the innings momentum.

Captaincy

Kohli is a natural and the manner he stroked the ball late on day three – an amalgam of footwork, wrists and timing — when it was becoming increasingly difficult to do so was a wonderful batting exhibition.

Balance is the essence of batsmanship and Kohli has this quality in plenty. He is also able to absorb the pressures of captaincy and channel them to bat with both responsibility and judicious aggression.

As captain, Kohli had his finger on the pulse of the game for most part but was a tad too defensive on day four when England openers Alastair Cook and Haseeb Hameed blocked and blocked.

He needed to have more men in catching positions close to the batsmen. There was, for instance, no silly point for R. Ashwin despite the bowler possessing the delivery that can drift or spin away from the right-hander.

Batting form

It is all right to create pressure by keeping fielders in single saving positions and denying runs but when the target is almost unattainable and there is assistance from the pitch, the bowlers should be provided with all the catching support that they require.

Kohli got it right on day five when the close cordon circled the bat and the English batsmen were put under tremendous mental stress.

Ashwin, his intent aggressive, continues to grow in stature as an all-rounder. He batted with fluidity and technique at No.6. He ripped his off-spinners, explored the angles and got his deliveries to dip and curl; this meant he was imparting serious revolutions on the ball.

Debutant off-spinner Jayant Yadav displayed fine temperament with the ball and the bat; his fundamentals are sound. And left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja bowled a lot of overs, gave little away and created pressure.

When the English batting came under stress from both ends, it crumbled.

Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav, employed in short bursts, fitted into the Indian game plan with their speed, movement and thrust. The two are among the quickest pace pairs to have bowled for India and there was no respite for batsmen even when spin was off from one end or more.

India, however, needs to have a better strategy in place while using DRS. Too many reviews are being wasted.

England has many issues with the bat and the return of the attacking Jos Buttler could at least fill a breach in the middle order. The side needs to be positive against spinners, not allow them to get on top and dictate the flow of the innings.

Cook also needs to use the pace-spin combination more effectively in these conditions. Given the quality of spin at his disposal, having spinners operating from both ends could result in the leaking of runs.

Perhaps, the gifted James Anderson can swing things England’s way.