Rahane saves India the blushes

Ajinkya RahaneA technically immaculate, temperamental flawless and a face-saving effort from Ajinkya Rahane saved the day for India on the first day of second Test against England at Lord’s here Thursday.

It was imperative for India to make the England bowlers toil harder in the heat so as to tire them out – they having taken the field for a third time in a mere nine days.

It looked as if India had failed to do so, as they handed an early edge to the home side.

But then Rahane stroked his brilliant second Test ton and saved the day for India adding 90 runs for the eighth wicket with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who is developing into a fine all-rounder.

By retaining four quicker bowlers and possessing only a part-time spinner in their ranks, England fairly pre-determined what they would do if they won the toss. They had to bowl in order to take advantage of a green and moist pitch on the first morning, given the arsenal at their disposal.

Admittedly, the wicket had greater bounce and carry than the pensive surface in the 1st test. But the grass was deceptive and less threatening once the residual moisture had evaporated under a hot sun. And often the English pacers bowled too wide of the off-stump to bother the Indian batsmen.

Batsmanship at the test level is as much about leaving the ball as making contact with it. Other than Shikhar Dhawan, India’s specialist batsmen demonstrated fine discipline by shouldering arms to deliveries away from the stumps; but paid the penalty in other respects. It is time the adventurous Dhawan applied himself, for Gautam Gambhir is waiting in the wings to replace him. `

All in all, it could be said the England captain Alastair Cook’s gamble of inserting India paid off. Much depended on the in-form Murali Vijay and the pedigreed Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli; all three, though, disappointed after getting their eye in.

Vijay got a leading edge to third slip attempting to turn a ball to the on-side. Kohli whetted the appetite with some resounding off-drives, but perished to an almost unplayable ball from James Anderson which swung away from off-stump, thereby compelling the batsman to play at it. And Pujara, after watchfully consuming 117 balls for his 28, was bowled through the gate.

Anderson, to his credit, swung the ball all day; and was England’s standout performer. He looked unaffected by an accusation from the Indian squad that he had committed a Level 3 offence under the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) conduct code.

But his wicket of Stuart Binny, who once more looked compact and composed, was a gift from umpire Bruce Oxenford. To the naked eye at normal speed the ball appeared to be going over the stumps, which hawk-eye confirmed. Is it not about time for the Board of Control for Cricket in India to reconsider their obstinate position on the Decision Review System (DRS).

The Indian skipper Mahendra Dhoni’s inadequate technique on sporting pitches was once again laid threadbare. Struck a painful blow on his thigh, he typically failed to move his feet to be caught behind.

His protege Ravindra Jadeja filled the breach. This Saurashtrian is learning the hard way that triple centuries on Indian featherbeds count for nothing in the stiffer examination of test cricket outside the subcontinent.

Amusingly, he was leg before wicket to the least penetrative of the English bowlers, the off-spinner Moeen Ali, who was employed more to maintain the required over-rate than to capture a wicket. In Tests, Jadeja looks tense and unable to execute his natural game.

One also wonders if the burden of having to prove the charge of misconduct made against Anderson is weighing on Dhoni and Jadeja. Dhoni’s evidence in the matter will not be decisive in the international Cricket Council hearing unless corroborated by an independent witness. It is a distraction the Indians could have done without.