India vs England 2nd Test: Virat Kohli's team underlines status as pace power at Lord's


Wonderful yes, but not that magical, unplayable delivery every bowler dream. It was a cleverly disguised slow ball, an off-cutter to be precise, delivered with the same fast arm that pitched on the leg stump and beat Robinson’s defence to trap him leg before. Bumrah, perhaps, dug into his T20 inventory to unearth that ball.

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Robinson’s dismissal gave India that foothold to mount the last peak. But that ball was also a symbol of India’s status as a pace power. Now, at any given point India can field four pacers of quality. Apart from Bumrah, India have Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Mohammad Siraj, all of them played at Lord’s, and waiting in the wings are T Natarajan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Shardul Thakur etc.

It’s quite a heady roster for a captain to inspect before a match and select from. The potency of this line-up makes India a favourite wherever they go. Australia has already been conquered twice in as many seasons. There is no reason to believe that India cannot create history in England during the on-going tour, and South Africa might not be having many pleasant thoughts of hosting Virat Kohli and his bunch later this year.

They are not just four fast bowlers making up the numbers. Ishant chokes the run flow and chip in with crucial wickets, and his spell on Monday (10-3-13-2) would make James Anderson, the master of parsimony, proud. Along with his age, Ishant has also grown wiser, and now he has a plan for each batsman and keeps that in-dipper as a lethal weapon.

Doubters can check with Aaron Finch or more recently with Haseeb Hameed. Shami, on the other hand, is skiddy and can hurry batsmen off the pitch and he also has a wicked bouncer.

Shami’s quality was on full view when he jettisoned Dom Sibley with a leg-cutter at around 140 clicks, Sibley just did not have any other option but to snick the ball that held the line to Rishabh Pant behind the wicket. Mind you it is not just at the away venues the India pacers shine but at home too they are a formidable force now. During the 2019 series against South Africa, they nearly outbowled R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.

Possibly, Siraj would never have got a sniff of Test cricket but for that spate of injuries to India pacers in Australia. But how well has he exploited the opportunity!

He has played just 7 Tests so far, including the one at Lord’s, but displays a maturity and confidence that belie those numbers. Perhaps, the quick men are lucky that they have Kohli as captain, who firmly believes in aggression.

The in-your-face approach of Kohli might not please everyone around, but pacers seem to be feeding on it. In turn, Kohli has given them the licence to go for the kill. It has turned out to be a potent combo.

For instance, Englishmen clapped off Shami and Bumrah at the end of India’s second innings, and Kohli might just have told them to let it fly when their turn comes. Bumrah was not hesitant to get under the skin of English players and was even irreverent peppering Anderson with a slew of bouncers, and Siraj often gave that Fort Knox-penetrating stare to Robinson.

Even if we discount all those theatrics and tactics, knocking a team flat in 51.5 overs out of a maximum of 60 overs is some achievement.

Kohli later admitted as much. “We thought with 60 overs to go we could have a crack, and they (pacers) were outstanding. A bit of tension on the field really motivated us to finish the game. Shami and Bumrah took the new ball and made breakthroughs for us.

“This one, to get a result in 60 overs, is quite special. With someone like Siraj playing at Lord’s for the first time and bowling as he did was outstanding. We decided 60 was our mark, crucial breakthroughs were great for us and we carried on from there,” said Kohli during the post-match presentation.

Kohli had received some amount of flak for leaving Ashwin out of the 11 for the first and second Test. But he has remained unwavering in his belief that four pacers are the “template” for India for this series. The pacers have rewarded him for his faith in them. Richly too!



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