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MS Dhoni Missed a Trick by Not Putting Alastair Cook Back in to Bat on Day 5

NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND - JULY 13:  Mahendra Singh Dhoni of India after drawing the 1st Investec Test match between England and India at Trent Bridge on July 13, 2014 in Nottingham, England.  (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
Gareth Copley/Getty Images
Chris TealeFeatured ColumnistJuly 13, 2014

Often accused of being hyper-defensive in his tactics, England captain Alastair Cook must have been delighted that India’s skipper MS Dhoni decided to continue batting on the fifth day.

Not just that Cook took his first-ever Test wicket in the closing stages before the game was declared a draw, but because if the visitors had declared, it would have left a tricky session for England to face.

Because of its tricky nature, Dhoni should have declared and forced England to bat out the game, but he did not, and he may live to regret it.

England’s batting looks fragile and has done for some time, no more so than their beleaguered captain, who has gone 25 innings without a century.

He would have been dreading the prospect of having to face an hour or two in the middle on the final day, even with the pitch offering very little for the bowlers.

NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND - JULY 13:  England captain Alastair Cook celebrates dismissing Ishant Sharma of India during day five of 1st Investec Test match between England and India at Trent Bridge on July 13, 2014 in Nottingham, England.  (Photo by Gareth Copl
Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Given that he managed just five runs in the first innings, his struggles look to have continued as England’s rebuilding after their Ashes debacle continues.

At the other end, the inexperienced duo of Sam Robson and Gary Ballance—both very early in their Test careers—might have been vulnerable to cheap dismissals before the close.

Then, given how brittle they have been in the past, an England collapse would not have been out of the question.

Instead, Cook and Ballance were allowed to turn their arms over as India continued to hold on doggedly with the bat.

Their declaration, when it came, meant that the game was entering into the final hour and so defeat was out of the question as both captains finally shook hands.

For a comparison, let us step back to November of 2010, when England faced Australia at the Brisbane Cricket Ground in the first Test of the 2010-11 Ashes.

England’s second innings saw all their top three make centuries, with Cook making a magnificent unbeaten 235 as the visitors racked up 517-1.

Captain Andrew Strauss then chose to declare when he could have let his side continue to bat, and instead he elected to have 26 overs of bowling against the Australian openers.

While they only took one wicket, it meant England had some momentum as they moved forward in the series and had the psychological edge.

Dhoni could have done the same—allowed his bowlers an hour or two to run in hard with aggressive fields to see whether they could prise out a couple of wickets ahead of the second Test at Lord’s later this week.

It would have provided a great lift to his bowlers, who surely would have achieved more with the ball than by hanging around in the middle with the bat.

Then, given England’s struggles at the crease, Lord’s would have taken on a different feel, as opposed to now where the hosts have a marginal edge.

However, Dhoni was over-cautious, and he may come to regret that decision later in the series.

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