The inquest after a six-for-67 collapse was all about batting blunders but England’s two old stagers with the ball would have been wondering what effect it might have on their summer.
The pair are within sight of 1,000 Test wickets between them and some of the pre-series build-up centred on how many Tests they can play, given all five come in six weeks.
They got through the Ashes, but have both suffered with injury this summer. Anderson is 36, Broad 32, and neither is looking beyond next year’s Ashes, which is an equally intense series. They are certainly still the best England have, but must be managed to make it there.
Batting performances like yesterday, when they closed on 285 for nine, make it less likely that England will have the services of Anderson and Broad all summer. Rather than racking up 400, which England have failed to do in six first innings this year (they have just one first-innings centurion, too, Bairstow’s against New Zealand at Christchurch in March), they were left with a middling total for the bowlers to protect. Those bowlers were due to be called into action sooner than they needed to be, too.
The pitch is slow and will be sapping; England, like India, will also be looking at Ravi Ashwin’s four wickets, including a sharp turner to get Alastair Cook in the ninth over, and wondering if a second spinner might have been handy.
The seamers will have to make up the slack, not least because England’s spinner is far less likely to contain than Ashwin, who chewed through 25 first-day overs for just 60 runs. Adil Rashid will simply be unable to do the same, not least because India’s batsmen understand how to play spin better.
Anderson and Broad, while slightly dismayed by the scheduling, believe they can get through the series and make it to the Ashes in fine fettle, but they need their batsmen to help out so they can put their feet up for longer.
The greatest worry for India’s batsmen, not least Kohli, is traditional English conditions, with cloud cover and juice in the pitch, and there are no finer exploiters of them than Anderson and Broad, so the tourists would dearly love for them to miss a Test on the back of some long days in the field.
England expect to have to shuffle their pack at Lord’s next week because of Ben Stokes’s court case; their depth would be tested even more by the absence of Anderson and or Broad. Jamie Porter is uncapped, while Chris Woakes and Mark Wood have both had injury issues. The cupboard is not bare, but it is not plush with ready-made replacements.
Keaton Jennings, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow had carried England to 215 for three before Bairstow ran out Root, sparking the collapse. The only redeeming feature of the procession back to the pavilion was that at least England were not all out at stumps, meaning India’s bowlers were made to go through their full bowling warm-ups in pursuit of the 10th wicket here this morning, rather than relaxing while the top order gets to work. It is all grunt work that adds up.
The collapse was so frustratingly familiar. In the First Ashes Test in Brisbane last November, England had worked hard and were going well when a dozy piece of running married to a brilliant direct hit, James Vince and Nathan Lyon that time, undid it all by triggering a meek collapse. We all know how that series ended. The same was true here.
Of England’s middle-order engine room in which there is so much promise, Root was the least to blame for his dismissal. Bairstow dragged on trying to force the issue, while Stokes and Jos Buttler handed their wickets to Ashwin, caught and bowled and lbw respectively. It was accommodating cricket that displayed England’s lack of ruthlessness and added up to that missed opportunity.
Anderson and Broad are more than capable of running through India but, at their age and with this schedule, but the batsmen need to do them a favour.
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