After the epic victory at Lord’s Team India find themselves in a difficult position after the first two days of the Southampton Test, with a deficit of 544 runs and nine wickets in hand.
The first two days of the third Test have been extremely testing for the Indian bowlers, who have toiled hard on a very flat wicket without any assistance from the weather.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who sent down 37 overs in the innings for 101 runs and picked three wickets, said they were expecting a strong reply from the hosts after their defeat in the second Test.
“We were expecting such performance from England,” Bhuvi said of England’s first innings score of 569 for 7 dec. “After losing a match every team tries to come back stronger. The wicket was flat, which made it easy for their batsmen. It were two long day for us in the field but as a bowling unit we tried our best.”
One got the feeling that overall the line and length of the Indian pacers was not as immaculate as it was at Trent Bridge and Lord’s. Runs were leaked on the square of the wicket either side, suggesting they either bowled too wide outside the off-stump or strayed down the leg-side.
Bhuvi, however, said it was because the team was trying different strategies to get rid of the set batsmen in unhelpful conditions. “When Ballance and Cook and then Bell were batting, the situation demanded that we bowl on one side of the wicket because we needed to stop the flow of runs,” Bhuvi said.
“When nothing happened, we tried different strategies and that’s why the lines were different. Yes, at times it happened because we were tired as it was a long day in the field but on the whole, I don’t think we bowled badly.”
In what was another strategy from MS Dhoni, after lunch, he rotated his three pacers – Bhuvi, Mohammad Shami and Pankaj Singh – after every over. When asked if it hampered the bowlers’ rhythm, Bhuvi said, it actually helped them stay relatively fresher.
“I found it easy. Being on the field for so long and being a medium pacer, you get tired,” Bhuvi said. “All three of us were tired and so the skipper wanted us to take turns to bowl one-over each so that we stay in rhythm without getting tired,” he explained.
While the conditions suited the batsmen at the Ageas Bowl, India didn’t help their own cause in the field. Ravindra Jadeja dropped Alastair Cook (95) at second slip when he was on 15, Shikhar Dhawan put Jos Buttler (85) down at first slip on 23 and Dhoni fluffed a chance to stump the England debutant when he was on 59.
Asked about a bowler’s frustration when chances go begging like that, Bhuvi said it is better to give the fielders the confidence rather than chide them for their mistakes.
“In England it happens with every team that catches are dropped in the slips,” the pacer said, defending his team mates. “As a bowler you have to trust the fielders and you can’t ask for someone to be replaced if he drops a catch. All you can do is give them confidence and they will do better.”
One of the catches that went down was off the bowling of Pankaj Singh, who is playing his first Test. There was also a very close lbw shout off his bowling against Ian Bell that was turned down. Hence, despite bowling well, Pankaj’s went wicketless in his first Test innings.
Bhuvi said he has the confidence of the team. “We cannot do anything about the luck. Pankaj knows he bowled well and he is happy about that. We are happy that he did well on his debut. What was important was he followed the process well. Taking or not taking a wicket is not always in your hands but bowling well is.”