It’s the fashion these days to look back on a losing streak and say that you were playing well in patches and that you knew all it would take would be a slight improvement and everything would be hunky-dory again. This always gets on our nerves, because of course you played well in patches. You’d be hard pressed to go through an entire Test match without having any decent patches.
But yet India seemed to just about manage it. In the third Test, they were widely considered to have lost every single session, but still they played well in patches – Ajinkya Rahane got a pair of fifties and they made over 300. Even at Old Trafford, they had one patch – MS Dhoni’s partnership with R Ashwin.
But at the Oval, there was nothing. Dhoni made more runs, but there was no good patch because his biggest partnership was with Ishant Sharma for the tenth wicket. Every run they scored merely enhanced the horror of what had preceded it.
Start by bending your fingers
We’ve thought and thought about India’s performance because we’re still not happy with the easy response that they’d simply given up. Watching their final innings of the series unfold, unravel and spontaneously combust, it seemed to us that it wasn’t so much lack of fight as having no real idea how to form a fist.
Watch the highlights again and they’re not peppering the slips cordon apathetically. They’re just displaying an almost frightening lack of adaptability; playing the same non-shots to swinging balls outside off stump as they had been doing innings after innings. It was as if they simply had no alternative.
Wicket-taking strategies in England are no great mystery and presumably India’s batsmen know what slips fielders are for, but yet most of them seemed to stick with doing exactly the things most likely to result in their dismissal.
What was it like?
It was rather like someone had said to them: “Could you retrieve my hat from this active threshing machine? You’ll just have to reach in with your hand and try and grab it.”
To which they said to themselves: “Oh well. Guess I’ll be losing my hand in the threshing machine,” rather than doing something – anything – different.