There are some startling figures pertaining to the Indian batsmen in the ongoing series, after looking at which you would be amazed at the fact that India actually headed into Southampton 1-0 up. More than a great Indian fight back, it has been a case of how England have failed to utilise the conditions that have been very much in their favour. They have done so far at in the ongoing Test, and the results are in front of everyone to see. Had England got their act right at Lord's, they could very well have gone into the third Test on even terms. But, it still not too late. The beauty of a five-match series is that it gives teams a fair chance to fight back. England have put themselves in such a situation.
Speaking of Indian batsmen, they have failed in the three Tests so far, and have been rescued by a couple of great fight backs. But the lack of form of their batsmen were bound to bite them sooner rather than later. And, they now find themselves in a position at Southampton, from where it would be exceedingly difficult for them to save the Test. Shikhar Dhawan hasn't registered a single fifty in five knocks, neither has Virat Kohli. Even Cheteshwar Pujara has only one fifty to his name across five knocks. These three were widely expected to shoulder India's burden in England, but have clearly fallen well short of expectations, at least till now.
The only reason why India have managed to compete with the bat so far has been because two of their batsmen have stood up and delivered. Murali Vijay clearly has been the standout performer. He has ensured India haven't been overtly troubled due to the triple failures of Dhawan, Pujara and Kohli. He has held the innings together like a rock. Lower down the order, Rahane has played a major role in steadying in the innings. He has been ably supported by Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who has proved his prowess with the bat. Ravindra Jadeja chipped in with one match-turning knock. Throughout though, it has been a case of them staying afloat.
Unless the out of form batsmen delivered, it was all going to fall apart for India sooner rather than later. After all, Vijay and Rahane were bound to fail sometime. India's worst batting fears came true in the first innings at Southampton. And they have started equally poorly in the second innings as well chasing 445. They had bowled poorly in the first innings, the inexperienced attack struggling with no one to guide them in the absence of Ishant Sharma. On the same pitch that India failed to extract any pace, bounce or movement, England's bowlers proved to be deadly. James Anderson and Stuart Broad completely exposed India's lack of experience and expertise under the conditions.
Mind you, the pitch was no minefield on day three, but unlike the England batsmen, who got in and carried on, India did exactly the opposite. Leave aside Dhawan, and almost all other Indian batsmen got starts, but gave it away. Indecision was the key to a number of Indian dismissals. In fact, it was a standout factor in India's innings. Pujara was done in by the short ball, Vijay was not sure whether to play and leave, Kohli again nicked one behind, and Rahane couldn't control a hit-me ball. Even Jadeja and Rohit Sharma got out after getting starts. Such performances clearly don't win you Test matches.
--By A Cricket Analyst