Where Have India Gone Wrong from Winning at Lord's to the 3rd Test vs. England?

Jaideep VaidyaAnalyst INovember 21, 2016

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 29: Rohit Sharma (R) of India shows his frustration after being caught by Stuart Broad off the bowling of Moeen Ali of England during day three of the 3rd Investec Test match between England and India at the Ageas Bowl at Ageas Bowl on July 29, 2014 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Michael Steele/Getty Images

If Day 2 was not convincing enough, England left no doubts that they have total control of the third Test against India at the end of Day 3, with the visitors reeling at 323 for eight, a further 47 runs required to only avoid the follow-on.

Avoiding the follow-on would be a huge victory in itself for the Indians given their shambolic performance over the last three days—an almost unbelievable reversal in every possible aspect from their showing in the second Test at Lord's.

So listless were Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men that Indian fans were taking solace from their wrestlers winning three golds at the Commonwealth Games.

Commentator Sanjay Manjrekar even rejoiced after it was pointed out on air that, for the first time, India had crossed 275 runs in each of the first five innings of a Test series.

A comparison with India's performance at Lord's—where they won their first Test away from home in three years—succinctly puts matters into perspective.

There, Dhoni lost what seemed a vital toss and was asked to put his team in to bat on perhaps the greenest pitch ever seen at the venue.

However, India transformed their apparent handicap into an advantage with a resolute and disciplined outing with the bat in both innings, coupled with a lack of application from the Englishmen.

With the ball, the Indians outbowled England on a pitch that was tailor-made for the hosts' bowling line-up, even with bowlers who were far less experienced.

In the field, the Indians were not great and did spill a couple of catches but made up for it with good ground fielding and astute captaincy from Dhoni, who always looked a step ahead of England.

India's 95-run victory was thoroughly deserved after a dominating all-round show.

And then, just like that, the world spun over in less than a week. Going south to Southampton for the third Test, the Indians seem to have taken it quite literally.

Again, India lost an important toss and were asked to bowl on a flattish pitch with not much assistance for the bowlers.

Over the next three days, any positive leftover feelings from Lord's were wiped away by a combination of England's positive attitude and resolve to correct their wrongs and India's stubborn reluctance to produce an encore.

India's bowlers, sans the leader of the attack and Lord's hero Ishant Sharma, who was ruled out due to injury, appeared clueless and ineffective.

The fact was exaggerated by the skipper who continually resorted to defensive tactics right from choosing an extra batsman to asking his bowlers to subscribe to leg theory.

If that wasn't enough, India's slip-catching could only be described as farcical for an international side. 

England were allowed to stroll along to 569 for seven before captain Alastair Cook showed some mercy and declared. If the tourists thought that was an end to their woes, they had another think coming.

For all of Ishant's heroics on the last day at Lord's, the prime reason why India won that Test was because of their batsmen, whose dogged determination and fearless approach was delightful and extremely encouraging.

Yet for some inexplicable reason, it all went missing in Southampton on a surface that was clearly more hospitable for the batsmen. The shots were poor, the judgement of the situation and conditions poorer.

Gone was the ability to grind out partnerships right to the tail and accumulate runs. They got the starts but were unable to build on them as their counterparts had done so well.

If their struggle against the world-class bowling of James Anderson and Stuart Broad was understandable, their overconfidence and foolishness in gifting two wickets to the part-time spin of Moeen Ali was inexcusable.

Dhoni's ploy of going for the extra batsman in Rohit Sharma, instead of bowling all-rounder Ravichandran Ashwin, was always going to be a big gamble and has miserably failed at least in the first innings. However, he still has the chance to make amends.

The Indian captain ended the day unbeaten after a gritty half-century, and as long as he is still out there and is given support by the two remaining batsmen, India still have hope to score the remaining 47 runs required not just to save the follow-on but potentially the Test and their hard-earned 1-0 lead.

If India do manage to get there, they would have dodged a cannon ball. If they don't, they would only get what they deserve.