Struggling England seek solace against buoyant India

Buttler replaces Prior to make debut for hosts in third Test.

Afp July 26, 2014


England won't just be looking to end a sequence of 10 Tests without a win when they face India in the third Test at Southampton on Sunday; they will be aiming to restore their pride.

Monday's 95-run defeat in the second Test at Lord's, a result that put the tourists 1-0 up in the five-match series, came after England had won the toss on a pitch that might have been made to captain Alastair Cook's specific instructions and against an India side who had not won away from home in 16 previous Tests.

Whether it was Bhuvneshwar Kumar bowling like a classic seamer or opener Murali Vijay's invaluable second-innings 95, India excelled in disciplines that were once common to every county, let alone England, team.

And then compounding the 'role reversal' was the way the match ended, when several England batsmen succumbed to a bouncer-trap baited by Ishant Sharma who promptly took 7-74 as India won only their sixth Test in England.

It was somehow typical of England's present plight that the only player who was actually dropped from the squad for the third Test was left-arm spinner Simon Kerrigan, who didn't play at Lord's.

By then, experienced wicketkeeper Matt Prior had withdrawn, citing quad, Achilles and right-hand injuries, to be replaced by 23-year-old Jos Buttler, uncapped at Test level but already England's limited overs gloveman.

"I'm not coming in expecting to be the one person who can fix English cricket ... unfortunately," Buttler told reporters on Friday.

"It'd be great if I can. That would be brilliant.

"But I'm just coming in determined to be authentic, be myself, enjoy the occasion and look forward to helping England put in a performance."

Questions raised

Given England's extensive backroom staff, how was it that Prior, who dropped six catches of varying difficulty this season, had been selected to be behind the stumps for four straight Tests – with only one Championship match as a keeper behind him this season – when he was so clearly unfit?

His inclusion revived accusations that the England set-up was a 'cosy club' where even basic fitness issues could be overlooked.

Meanwhile, Cook and Ian Bell, the two senior batsmen in an otherwise inexperienced top-order are both in the middle of a run-drought.

Left-handed opener Cook has gone 27 innings without adding to his England record of 25 Test hundreds, while it is 19 innings since Bell last reached three figures at this level.

New-ball duo James Anderson and Stuart Broad have both looked physically and mentally tired, with Anderson not helped by a row with India's Ravindra Jadeja during the drawn first Test in Nottingham.

Yet the man most likely to be dropped from the team is Ben Stokes, who has six ducks in his last 10 international innings.

Fellow all-rounders Chris Jordan and Chris Woakes will be eyeing Stokes' spot.

For India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the unexpected but welcome problem is how to guard against complacency.

"We don't have too many experienced players but it is important to seize our chances and put the opposition away,” said Dhoni."Being humble in cricket is very important."


Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2014.

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