Root’s walk­ing wounded face Kohli power

Tourists would match the Aus­tralians’ unique feat of 1936-37 by win­ning from 2-0 down, says Scyld Berry

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page -

While Eng­land have not lost a home Test se­ries since 2014 – when they were in such chaos that Sri Lanka did the hon­ours – the prospect is grow­ing that they could lose this five-match se­ries against India. Mon­goose missed the op­por­tu­nity to kill co­bra when Eng­land were 2-0 up and Joe Root sent in India at Trent Bridge, only his seam­ers let him down.

The chances of a se­ries de­feat in­creased when Jonny Bairstow, one of the few English­men ca­pa­ble of more than a cou­ple of dozen Test runs, and with the con­fi­dence to match, broke the mid­dle fin­ger of his left hand dur­ing the third Test. It grew fur­ther on Fri­day evening when Ben Stokes ended up hob­bling on his left knee in Durham’s los­ing Vi­tal­ity T20 Blast quar­ter­fi­nal against Sus­sex.

Stokes (right) had dam­aged it dur­ing the third Test, and was per­mit­ted only to bat for Durham. At this stage Bairstow and Stokes look as though they will only be able to bat for Eng­land on Thurs­day, not keep wicket or bowl. Eng­land could se­lect an XI without ei­ther in­valid, but it would have a long tail, with Sam Cur­ran and

Chris Woakes at seven and eight – and the Ageas Bowl, be­ing a shal­low bowl at this stage of its de­vel­op­ment, is not a swing­ing ground to suit ei­ther.

It is pri­mar­ily a bat­ting pitch, where the new ball is gold dust for 15 overs of seam move­ment. Of all Eng­land’s Test grounds, Woakes has been least suc­cess­ful at Southamp­ton, where his first-class wick­ets have av­er­aged 35, while Cur­ran has av­er­aged 38 there. This will be only its third Test, and one of course was against India in 2014, when Moeen Ali came good with his off-spin and took six wick­ets in India’s sec­ond in­nings to level the se­ries at 1-1.

But India were com­pla­cent then, con­tent to have won the Lord’s Test. India’s cap­tain on this tour, Vi­rat Kohli, burns far too in­tensely to do com­pla­cency. His pace bowlers out­per­formed Eng­land’s at Trent Bridge both in speed and qual­ity, and af­ter a week’s rest he will be rid­ing his horses like a Cos­sack.

Only once have any coun­try come from 2-0 down to win a Test se­ries, and Kohli has al­ready gone a long way to repli­cate the key fig­ure then.

In the first two Tests of the 1936-37 Ashes se­ries, Eng­land caught Aus­tralia on wet, un­cov­ered pitches. Gubby Allen’s team had bat­ted first, then it had rained, so they had trapped Don Brad­man, be­cause he did not care to hang around on a wet pitch. “Brad­man be­gan as though rid­dled with fal­li­bil­ity, then at the right mo­ment dis­played a pre­ci­sion even more in­hu­man than that which we saw in Eng­land in 1930,” wrote Neville Car­dus in Aus­tralian Sum­mer, still the finest of all cricket tour books.

“The team [Eng­land] was never re­ally good enough to beat Aus­tralia in Aus­tralia; as one or two of the English play­ers said, ‘We are get­ting away with it’.” And as soon as the sun re­turned, so did Brad­man: in his last four in­nings he scored 270, 26, 212 and 169. He led Aus­tralia to a 3-2 vic­tory in front of 943,513 spec­ta­tors, still the largest at­ten­dance for any Test se­ries.

Kohli so far is do­ing bet­ter than Brad­man: he scored 200 runs in the first Test, an­other 200 in the third, and his ag­gre­gate of 440 is twice that of any other bats­man on ei­ther side. To lead his team home he needs a dou­ble hun­dred or two, and that should not be

To lead his team home, he needs a dou­ble hun­dred or two – that should not be be­yond him

be­yond his pow­ers at Southamp­ton or the Oval, as he has been able to make sin­gle cen­turies when the ball has been curv­ing round cor­ners.

As Brad­man was too sin­gle-minded to be pop­u­lar among his own play­ers, he spent a lot of time with the English jour­nal­ists; or Car­dus at least gives us the im­pres­sion he did: “When I ar­rived in Ade­laide in Novem­ber, Brad­man as­sured me that he did not in­tend to score ‘any more two hun­dreds in Test matches’; he wished to en­joy him­self.” The pair were ap­par­ently still talk­ing af­ter “the Don” had snatched the Ashes from un­der Eng­land’s nose, where­upon Car­dus summed up Brad­man as “a ter­ri­ble lit­tle man, but like­able, and with a wist­ful some­thing about him, prob­a­bly that melan­choly which Aris­to­tle says is the mark of all the great ones of the earth”.

Kohli is more pop­u­lar with his team, and more self-ex­pres­sive, never hid­ing his emo­tions, in­deed re­veal­ing them af­ter ev­ery ball that India’s bowlers de­liver. He has hardly put a foot wrong so far when bat­ting, given that the pitches could have been made with James An­der­son in mind. The only time he has put a hand wrong was at Trent Bridge when a slip chance of­fered by Adil Rashid sped through his grasp.

Eng­land have drawn only one of their past 30 Tests at home, but they would be happy for one this week. Then they could pro­ceed to the Oval in the driv­ing seat, know­ing India would have to take risks in the fifth Test and chase the game. But for that to hap­pen they have first to make a large firstin­nings to­tal, and some­body has to score a big hun­dred for Eng­land, in ad­di­tion to pre­vent­ing Kohli be­com­ing India’s Don.

In­jury blow: Jonny Bairstow leaves the field dur­ing the third Test and is likely to play as a bats­man only for Eng­land at the Ageas Bowl

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