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MS Dhoni voices batting concerns

Indian skipper wants top six batsmen to bat with more responsibility

Mahendra Singh Dhoni captain of India interviewed after the match during day three of the fourth Investec Test Match between England and India held at The Emirates, Old Trafford cricket ground in Manchester, England on the 9th August 2014

Photo by Ron Gaunt / SPORTZPICS/ BCCI

In the last session of the third day of Old Trafford Test, India lost nine wickets for 128 runs. Before the close of play, they had lost the match by an innings and 54 runs. So, the fourth Test of the series got over under three days despite half of Day 2 being lost to rain.

With the shambolic performance, India now trail the series 1-2 with one Test to go.

India’s woes began on the very first morning of the match, when they lost their top four batsmen in six overs, with eight runs on the board. And despite the fight from the bowlers, they never quite recovered from that.

Captain, MS Dhoni, too put the blame on his batsmen at the end of the match. “What is important is to put runs on the board,” he said. “To some extent the performance of No. 8, 9, 10 and 11 so far in the series had camouflaged the question of the top order not performing.

“May be a few batsmen are having a lean period at the same time. But overall we will have to put more runs on the board so that the bowlers can get the opposition out,” Dhoni said.

Dhoni said it was all the more important for the top six batsmen to take more responsibilities since India have been playing with five bowlers.
“Batting department will have to improve especially since we are playing a batter less. That extra bowler is actually contributing both with ball and bat. Still the top 5 or 6 batters will have to get more runs to make the bowlers feel more comfortable.”

The reason behind India fielding a batsman less is the presence of Ravindra Jadeja at No. 7. Except his madcap fifty in the second innings at Lord’s, which was more a desperate attempt to hit himself in form, Jadeja’s contribution in the series with bat and ball has been 88 runs and nine wickets. He averages 22.12 with the bat and 46.66 with the ball.

However, Dhoni made it clear that he has no intention of dropping Jadeja any time soon. “The problem is who do you have to replace him?” Dhoni reasoned.

“Again you will fall back on the same thing of going with an extra batter and not having that fifth bowler when you really need him. That is how he plays. The more he plays the better he will get. We are hoping that it happens soon. We have seen glimpses of it. He will have to back himself to play the same kind of cricket. That is something that will give him the confidence. Hopefully he will keep hitting the ball.”

One alarming aspect of India’s batting collapses in the last two Tests has been their inability to negotiate England’s part-time off-spinner. Moeen Ali has been all over the Indian batsmen like a rash in the second innings of both matches. At Old Trafford, he had second innings figures of 13-3-39-4.

However, the Indian skipper doesn’t think it is a pressing issue. “It is important to be positive. We will lose a few wickets. He is quite a consistent bowler. He keeps pitching in the same areas. He is quite good and uses the drift. At the same time we will have to put pressure back on him. If in doing you lose a few wickets that is still good for you because that pushes the opposition to use their fast bowlers more. That is something we will have to follow.

When asked the reason why Ali has been more successful than the Indian spinner, Dhoni said, “He has his own trajectory. He keeps bowling in one area and is quite willing to bowl that way. Our bowlers are different. They have their own way of bowling. Moeen is very persistent with his lengths. The odd ball turns and the others are just straight. He wants to keep it very tight. And if you want to take him on you can try your luck otherwise he may get a wicket.”

Dhoni, who scored 71 and 27 in the Test, said the wicket was not as bad as India’s scores of 152 and 161 suggested. “I personally never felt it was a quick wicket,” he said. “It had a bit of bounce. Some of the other wickets were slightly tougher because of the variable bounce and bit of extra swing for the fast bowlers. This was one of the good wickets.

“Once you see off the first 20-25 overs, when the ball is hard and new, it gets relatively better to bat. You just have to pull the bowler towards you rather than going outside off and looking for the big shot. If you can look to push them to bowl to you actually you can control the swing much better and you can play your strokes.

“That is something to an extent we lacked. Also the fact we lost six wickets in the first half an hour and that had a very big impact on the game. A lot of things had consequences in this Test match. Hopefully we will learn and move into the next one which I feel will be very important to us.”

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Report: England vs India, 4th Test - Day 3

India wilt on third day, lose by an innings and 54 runs

In response to England’s 215-run lead the Indian batting lineup capitulated to Moeen Ali’s spin and caved in to the James Anderson-led pace attack for 161 runs. After wrapping up England’s first innings for 367 in the second session at Old Trafford, the visitors were bowled out for 161 in 43 overs on Saturday evening. After Anderson set the ball rolling with the wicket of Gautam Gambhir in the final session, the rest of the lineup succumbed to the England bowling without much resistance and now trail the series 1-2.

While Murali Vijay and Gautam Gambhir took guard, Chris Woakes opened the bowling with James Anderson with Stuart Broad being injured by a Varun Aaron bouncer in the over after Lunch.

With over two days left in the game, India needed to occupy the crease even as they looked to put runs on the scoreboard in order to save the game.

With their task cut out, the openers played watchfully and had put together 26 until Vijay was trapped leg-before by Woakes. Once again in the series, Cheteshwar Pujara made his way out to the middle early in the innings and took India to Tea with Gambhir.

But, the pair was sent back early in the last session of the day. Gambhir who had bided his time at the crease departed for 18. An Anderson delivery took the glove and was caught by Jos Buttler going down the leg side. In the next over Pujara was adjudged lbw off Ali. An over later, Ajinkya Rahane handed a return catch to the spinner and returned for one.

Virat Kohli was the next to walk back in the next over, edging Anderson to Ian Bell at second slip.

With the team floundering on 61/5, Ravindra Jadeja joined MS Dhoni in the middle only to walk back in the following over. The England off-spinner induced an edge off the left-hand batsman’s willow to leave India on 66/6.

India had lost five wickets in the span of 13 runs when Ravichandran Ashwin joined MS Dhoni who was yet to open his account in the middle.

And seven overs later, a brilliant diving catch by Gary Ballance at midwicket saw the back of the India captain for 27 off Ali’s spin. While Ashwin battled it out in the middle, Bhuvneshwar Kumar who had survived being caught off a Chris Jordon no-ball was run out an over later leaving India on 133/8. Looking for a second run, he was found short of his crease as Ali hurled in the ball from cover region.

A while later, Varun Aaron departed fending Jordon to the keeper and the pacer bowled Pankaj Singh off the next ball to bundle India out on the third day.

Earlier, England finished their first innings with a sizeable lead in the second session after resuming on 237/6 on the third morning.

Continuing from where they had left on Day 2, Joe Root and Jos Buttler kept India at bay and extended the lead until Pankaj Singh struck to end the partnership for 134.

The pacer was rewarded for his persistence. Pankaj claimed Root as his maiden Test wicket in the later part of the morning session and followed up with the wicket of Buttler to finish with two wickets in the morning. Post Lunch, a Varun Aaron bouncer saw Stuart Broad return injured while James Anderson’s dismissal halted the hosts’ first innings.

Root who was two runs short of his half-century when play was called off on the second day, collected runs off Pankaj Singh to fine leg in the second over of the day to get to the mark.

While MS Dhoni rotated the pacers, using them in short bursts in search of wickets, Root and Buttler steadily added to the runs tally. It was finally with the new ball that Bhuvneshwar Kumar created an opportunity for a wicket. However, Virat Kohli dropped Buttler who had edged the pacer to gully. Receiving a life on 34, England’s wicketkeeper-batsman continued to build on the partnership with Root. He got another life a few runs later while sneaking in a second run. He soon struck Bhuvneshwar through covers to bring up his fifty.

With the pace set, Root drove Varun Aaron to the ropes to take England past the 300 mark. But in the next over, became Pankaj’s first wicket in the longest format of the game. The ball going down the leg side grazed past the batsman’s glove and was caught by Dhoni to give India their first breakthrough of the day. 21 runs later, Buttler hit the tall pacer straight to mid-off to depart for 70. Broad who then came to the crease was yet to open his account when Lunch was taken.

He resumed the innings with gusto and had slammed Aaron for two successive sixes before finding himself hit by a bouncer. Done in by the pace and bounce while looking to pull, the batsman was hit on the face through the grille of the helmet and had to be helped off the field with a bleeding nose. Anderson then joined Wokes in the middle and the pair helped to add 29 runs before being dismissed. Ravindra Jadeja claimed Anderson lbw to end the hosts first innings.

Brief scores:

Day 1: India 1st inn 152 all out in 46.4 overs (MS Dhoni 71, R Ashwin 40, S Broad 6/25, J Anderson 3/46); England 1st inn 113/3 in 35 overs (I Bell 45*, G Ballance 37, V Aaron 2/26)

Day 2: England 1st inn 237/6 in 71 overs (I Bell 58, J Root 48*, B Kumar 3/47)

Day 3: England 1st inn 367 all out in 105.3 overs (J Root 77, J Buttler 70, S Broad rtd hurt 12, P Singh 2/113); India 2nd inn 161 all out in 43 overs (R Ashwin 46*, M Ali 4/39, J Anderson 2/18, C Jordon 2/65)

Man of the Match: Stuart Broad for his 6/25 in the first innings to set the game up in England's favour