England face quite a number of awkward questions when they head into the fourth Test starting at Rose Bowl on Thursday. India made a strong comeback in the Nottingham Test as they had runs on the board to put pressure back on the opposition. England batsmen have struggled in the series as they haven’t been able to locate their off-stump well enough.
The problem for England starts from the top. Both their left-handers - Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings - have struggled massively when India’s right-arm quicks have switched to round-the-wicket. Apart from the first Test where Cook was dismissed by Ravichandran Ashwin in identical fashion twice, Ishant Sharma has dismissed Cook every time he has bowled at him in this series. Overall, Cook averages 16.63 against Sharma and has been dismissed 11 times by him.
Head-to-head: Ishant Sharma to Alastair Cook ©Sky Sports
According to CricViz, only Sam Curran has found more swing than Ishant in this series which shows that he has adapted well to these conditions. The other thing with Ishant is that he has swung the ball mostly in one direction, i.e. back into the right-handers (away from the left-hander). As a left-hander, Ishant can be easily lined-up when he’s bowling from over-the-wicket as he’ll only take the ball away from them and that angle works in batsmen’s favour.
When he switches to round-the-wicket, it becomes a challenge for the left-handers as now, with the angle, the ball has to come into the batsman. As Ishant can swing the ball in one direction mostly, he is a different proposition from that angle as the ball comes in (with the angle) and swings away late at a decent pace. Initially, the ball is coming into the batsmen with the angle which draws them into the shot and when the ball swings away late (in case of Ishant), batters are drawn into the shot and start catching up with the swing with their hands.
When the ball zips around at great pace this is a great challenge but England’s left-handers have to find a method around it to counter this. The best thing they can do to deal with this is to play down the line of the stumps and not reach for the ball with their hands. Another thing they can do to counter the threat is to leave a lot of balls. Since Ishant is a tall fast bowler, a lot of his balls go on to miss the stumps which can be left on length only.
There was a lot of chat going on about Virat Kohli up against James Anderson before the start of the Test series. Kohli’s previous England tour was a horrendous one as he averaged just 14.00 in that series. Following a horrible run of form, Kohli spoke to Sachin Tendulkar who advised him to stand outside of his crease and use the forward press so that he could get closer to the ball and shut down the lateral movement on offer.
Kohli on the left in 2014 vs Kohli on the right in 2018 ©Sky Sports
As we see in the above screenshot, Kohli has moved slightly more across on off-stump and he is standing outside of his crease as compared to 2014. Kohli is more sideways on now (as compared to 2014) and the angle of his back lift is much straighter. Being slightly more sideways has allowed him to turn his shoulder into the shot in a much-controlled way which then allows the bat to come down dead straight. Most importantly, he has developed a much better sense of where his off-stump is.
Putting the foot down early ©Sky Sports
As compared to 2014, Kohli has got rid of his trigger movements a bit early that gives him slightly more time to adjust to the line of the ball. His second movement is the forward press but is so important to make a decision from that point. In 2014, he wasn’t getting rid of his movements early and at the end, he had to adjust to the swing with his hands only. Now, with that ‘forward press’, Kohli is making a second smaller movement and adjusting to the swing accordingly. The other thing Indian captain has done so well is that he has played the ball so late that you can almost see the ball dropping by his feet, something which Rahul Dravid did so well on 2011 England tour. By moving effectively, his hands don’t go out searching for the ball which causes a lot of problems, particularly against the moving ball.