One-nil down and three to go, England will be in serious dilemma going into the third Test starting at Southampton on July 27 (Sunday). India's 95-run win at Lord's on Sunday will have sent the England team management in a tizzy. Apart from Alastair Cook's form, England will ponder over the nature of wicket they want for the remainder of the series.
India have surely broken a myth about enjoying 'home' conditions. This new generation Indian team can look the opposition in the eye.
Effectively, it loves to hook, pull and young men like Ravindra Jadeja won't hesitate to 'give it back' to the opposition . Aggression is the middle name of Team India.
When positive attitude mixes with skill, it becomes a heady mix. Nature of wickets and quality of bowlers do not matter. Then battle between bat and ball becomes an encounter in the mind. You don't throw in the towel before you step out of the dressing room and walk up to take guard or etch your bowling mark with the spikes.
This team under Mahendra Singh Dhoni is doing just that. The boys are wearing their attitude on their sleeves. Sunil Gavaskar says the Lord's victory can be the start of many good things to come . Sourav Ganguly feels the "roles have reversed" and India "can bounce out opposition too." Sachin Tendulkar is saying the "team is playing like a unit" and it is the signature of a happy dressing room. The challenge will be to protect this brilliant start. Consolidation is always the bigger job and England will be gunning for revenge.
Even though Indian batsmen have shown the courage and ability to bat on green-top wickets, England will probably go for seaming tracks. That's their best bet. England's batting has been their biggest worry. Except for Joe Root and Gary Ballance, the batting has crumbled. Cook and Ian Bell's repeated failures have hurt the home team. Rescue acts by 'batsmen' James Anderson, Liam Plunkett or Stuart Broad can be the exception, not the norm. The odds are clearly against England. Tendulkar feels the pressure got to the England camp at Lord's. "Going into the final day, it was always going to be just a matter of time before the pressure got to them despite the two English batsmen having almost
seen off the first session. There is nothing comparable to the pressure that you feel while batting on Day 5," Tendulkar told the Indian Express .
"I remember telling my son Arjun that India had the upper-hand in the game after the first day's play at Lord's. Our boys put in a very creditable performance in the first Test and then followed it up by batting brilliantly on Day One on a testing pitch (at Lord's).
"I also felt that the key from the second day onwards was for them to capitalize on that start, to build on the foundation laid down by the batsmen and to keep the pressure on them. And they did just that," Tendulkar said.
The Little Master, who was the cynosure of all eyes during the MCC Bicentenary celebrations on July 5, feels India's biggest strength is contribution from every member of the playing XI.
"Winning Tests in England is very special. What really stood out for me from this match was the number of performers we had across all five days. It reminded me of our wins in Johannesburg (2006) and Durban
(2010). In both those games, everyone chipped in with special performances," Tendulkar said.
Tendulkar has a word of caution too. "These are wonderful times but let's not think ahead," he said. Wise words these. India will now be under pressure to maintain this momentum and prove that the Lord's win was
One can't see Southampton, Manchester and the Oval presenting India with batting tracks. England's best chance will revolve around its pace attack. In the post-Graeme Swann era, England have serious limitations in the spin department. Indians can well handle a Moeen Ali.
The big gap between the second and third Test will refresh Anderson, Broad and Company. It will give Cook, Peter Moores and team to think afresh too. Having whitewashed India 4-0 at home in 2011, England have a lot at stake in the current series. Wounded lions are always dangerous.