Kuldeep Yadav accounted for five of England’s top six © Getty
The first forty-odd minutes of Thursday’s ODI would’ve given fans in Trent Bridge a sense of deja vu. And an anticipation of the unthinkable that unfolded in front of them just a fortnight ago. Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow cruised to 71 for no loss in the first powerplay, just eight short of how many they managed against Australia when an ODI was last played at this venue. But from this point, their batting show against India took a completely different, and subdued route.
It is true that Thursday’s Trent Bridge wicket wasn’t screaming out for 481. But neither did it have demons for England to miss that mark by 213 runs. On that day, all Australia could offer in the spin department was an ordinary Ashton Agar, while today, India let Kuldeep Yadav loose on batsmen who thought they’d figured him all out in the second T20I, but were soon to be handed a jolting reality check.
Roy didn’t actually have the experience of being bamboozled by Kuldeep’s inherently tricky left-arm wrist spin in the T20I series, or in the 2018 IPL either. But having watched enough of his peers struggle in Manchester, he may have made a fair estimation of what the left-arm wristspinner was truly capable of.
As soon as Roy played a premeditated sweep shot on a flighted, teasing first ball from Kuldeep Yadav, Kohli was aware of exactly the sort of path this batsman-vs-bowler match-up was going to take. He simply walked from one side of MS Dhoni to the other, at leg slip, and watched Roy clumsily self-combust. A premeditated reverse sweep went to Umesh Yadav at cover.
Joe Root wasn’t as unfortunate as Roy. After all, he had a first-hand account of the potential landmines that could come up while facing Kuldeep. But hence, came an overcompensation, that also led to his demise. In Manchester, Root had misread a googly and gave Dhoni the chance to stump him out. In Trent Bridge, he took that dismissal out of equation, but made himself a prime LBW candidate by going back deep into the crease without taking length into consideration. The rigid planning may have stemmed from Alex Hales’s recipe to blunt Kuldeep.
“I’d never faced him before and I didn’t know much about him. Maybe I just went out in Manchester without a plan and couldn’t get going. I watched a bit more footage, worked with Merlyn and looked to play a bit more off the back foot and waited for him to float one up and hit a bit straighter, rather than cross bat like my dismissal the other night. It’s about having a bit more of a plan and more composure,” Hales had said after his match-winning half-century in Bristol.
But Jonny Bairstow didn’t buy into that theory. By the time he faced Kuldeep, he’d already played 27 balls – six more than how many Jos Buttler had played before facing Kuldeep in the Manchester T20I. As per Eoin Morgan’s assessment, the key to Buttler’s success that day was because he’d spent some time in the middle already. Bairstow, today, had that going for him. What could possibly go wrong from there?
Kuldeep was altering his speeds and lengths regularly, but Bairstow went anti-Root and kept playing on the front foot. It worked, but for exactly seven deliveries, as a googly on eighth deceived him and forced him to play down the wrong line. Kuldeep’s first spell, which involved two more overs for a run each, read: 4-0-9-3.
By snaring the top-order, Kuldeep crippled England for the most crucial middle-phase which has generally been the foundation for a fiery finish, and hence a victory. Since the 2015 World Cup, England have scored 5.90 runs-an-over between overs 11 to 40, and a boundary every 9.99 deliveries – the best tally in ODIs. Today, owing to Kuldeep’s opening salvo, they could only manage 125 in that period at an appalling run rate of 4.31 – which had Ben Stokes struggling to manoeuvre out of the shell he got into early. Unsurprisingly, he limped to his slowest ODI fifty, and slowest by an England batsman since 2005.
After India’s ODI series victory in South Africa earlier this year, Heinrich Klaasen – one of their best players of spin in that series – made an observation that rings true for England too. “The problem was that we didn’t pick the chinaman. That obviously makes the difference to be able to score against him. The leggie [Chahal] was… no one really struggled to pick him but he seemed to pick up a lot of the wickets. But we struggled to pick up the chinaman’s variations.”
“He is very good and there is no getting around that. He exposes an area of our game that we need to improve on and I think that is a healthy thing,” Eoin Morgan said in the post-match address. “We have played great cricket for the last six months and not come up against anybody like this, so it is a chance to improve on this area however long it might take between now and the World Cup.”
The acknowledgement of Kuldeep’s quality is there, but the preparation is still a work-in-progress. The use of a machine and Saqlain Mushtaq’s inputs seemed to have yielded immediate results in Cardiff, but the Trent Bridge outing has brought England back to square one.
Kuldeep’s first spell didn’t just dictate how England went about in the rest of the innings, but also how Kohli utilised his bowlers. The sheer effectiveness of Kuldeep’s first two overs allowed Kohli to slip in three from Suresh Raina when both batsmen were left-handed and new at the crease. Raina conceded just seven runs in those three overs, while making room for Kohli to keep his least effective bowler on the day – Hardik Pandya today – from bowling his entire quota of overs.
Kuldeep’s final spell also had three wickets in them, but were clearly a byproduct of what he achieved earlier. When he came back to bowl his final three overs, England were at a stage where they had to throw their bats at absolutely everything. The result of such a scenario: Jos Buttler was caught down the leg side, Stokes perished to an attempt at breaking shackles with a reverse sweep, and David Willey departed off a long-hop.
Not for the first time this series, commentators talked up the prospect of having Kuldeep bowling to England’s red-ball team next month. Kuldeep has recently been on the periphery of the Test side, and even made his debut last year in Dharamsala as part of a three-man spin attack with Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. To usurp one of those two would be quite a leap.
Shared News | Last updated on Fri, 13 Jul, 2018, 10:02 AM