On a day that was marred by rain, England got themselves off to a great start, reducing the Indian top-order to 125/4, on the back of James Anderson’s scintillating spell of 2/15. India will go into the third day of the first Test, still needing 58 runs to go past England's first innings total.
England massively underutilised Sam Curran
Despite having bowled seven overs before lunch on Day 2, the larger consensus was clear that Sam Curran was majorly underutilised by Joe Root in the ongoing Test against India. In the 2018 series against India, the left-arm seamer had played just four Tests but made a humungous impact, picking up 11 wickets in the series, at an average of 23.54, bowling as the first change for the Three Lions. He was largely the difference maker between the two sides in that series.
Unfortunately, for the all-rounder, in the 2021 series, at least thus far, he has been majorly underutilised by the English skipper, who has only given him seven overs in the innings, with three of those overs coming as a more defensive option. While KL Rahul has in the past shown vulnerability against the nipper, in this Test, he showed severe weakness against Curran, who not only got the ball to straighten past the bat but also got the opener to be in two minds about his own shot selection.
So when James Anderson and Stuart Broad couldn’t quite get off to the best start, Root very well missed the trick of not utilising the left-arm bowler with the new cherry, especially when he was getting the ball to do the swerve that the others were unable to. By the time he came on for his second spell, the openers were already well set and his spell was rather largely ineffective.
Another 30 minutes ruin the entire efforts for India
India’s past history with a spell of misfortune is nothing new, 2018 Test series against England, 2019 ODI World Cup, 2020 Adelaide Test, you name it, you get it. Every single time India were in advantage or even in a spell of advantage, they have been bogged down by their own ruins in the span of a few minutes, a few overs via their own undoing. In Nottingham, it wasn’t a different tale, it was a tale that was well known, it was like a bus in London, none of several minutes and plenty of time, all at once.
The Men in Blue’s batting is nothing different, no wickets were lost at one time and plenty of wickets were lost in the span of few deliveries. After Rohit Sharma had lost his wicket just before the Lunch, India had to start all over again from the scratch, with KL Rahul and Cheteshwar Pujara at the crease. While Rahul knew and played the ball by merit, Pujara’s feeling for the delivery resulted in one of the easiest dismissals. And then, Virat Kohli, in the very next delivery was yet again at the crossroad, edging one outside the off-stump, mirroring the ghosts of 2014.
Ajinkya Rahane, after being given life via a missed run-out opportunity, was in the middle of another yes-no with Rahul to lose his wicket, as India lost 4 wickets in the span of 15 runs. 18 deliveries apart, India went from 104/1 to 112/4, losing control of another Test. It was a familiar feeling for the visitors, who had suffered a similar fate in the World Test Championship final against New Zealand, where they had lost the plot on the final day of the final.
KL Rahul shows his worth in gold on English return
Having made his debut way back in 2014, KL Rahul’s Test career was one of the bizarre careers in Indian cricket. It never really took off and it never quite landed, the right-handed opener was hanging in there for the most parts but without much success. Incidentally, his last appearance was way back in 2019, against West Indies, where he made a combined score of 19, across two innings. Ever since then, India have moved on from him to Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Prithvi Shaw, Hanuma Vihari and Mayank Agarwal.
However, injuries to Gill, then a concussion to Mayank ensured that the right-hander was forcefully back in the mix to open the innings. Ahead of his return, in the warm-up game against the County Select XI, Rahul had an opportunity to convert his chances into a solid one, either at the top or in the middle-order. In the only innings the visitors batted, the right-hander scored a scintillating 101, where he looked very composed. Against the tide, even the new ball was doing all sorts of things, Rahul showed his naturally talented side, where he was very confident about his shot selection.
Against the tide, the right-hander scored a match-defining 149-ball 57 in the first innings, where he battled not just Anderson but also timed against the other bowlers in exquisite fashion. More interestingly, the opener, according to ESPNCricinfo, had a control percentage of 78, showing why India had trusted him all the way even though he hadn't played many red-ball games. Even when England's plans were to get the ball to swing back in, Rahul showed great signs of batsmanship.