Saturday 10 December 2016

How English can end culture of batting collapses in Asia

Scyld Berry

Published 20/11/2016 | 02:30

India’s Wriddhiman Saha and Ajinkya Rahane appeal successfully for the wicket of James Anderson
India’s Wriddhiman Saha and Ajinkya Rahane appeal successfully for the wicket of James Anderson

For as long as English cricket teams have been touring India, they have been susceptible to batting collapses. One moment their batsmen are shaping up strongly, the next they are all out in a rush. This happened to the very first English team to tour India, in 1889-'90.

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George Vernon's XI was composed of promising first-class cricketers - Cambridge blues if not county players - and dash it, old boy, they took a first-innings lead over the Parsis at the Gymkhana Club in Bombay then collapsed to 61 all out! Vernon's chaps lost not only the match but, far more importantly, face: it was the first time an English team in India had been beaten by a native Indian team.

When England made their first Test tour of the subcontinent in 1933, they averted the threat of a batting collapse by a simple expedient: they took their own umpire. Much less risk of a loss of face with a former England Test player at one end and an Australian who used to play for Middlesex at the other. England won 2-0.

Since then, England teams have become prone to batting collapses. They are a form of spontaneous combustion: the tourists' hopes of winning go up in smoke whether in India or Pakistan, or in Bangladesh, where three weeks ago they lost 10 wickets in a session for the first time in Asia.

England cannot do anything to guarantee that they will not be ravaged by the two Ravis, Ashwin and Jadeja, on pitches designed for them, but they can minimise the risk. Here are a few suggestions on how to avert them: No run-outs - as in England's first innings here, when Joe Root lured Haseeb Hameed into a second run then sent him back, and they collapsed from 54 for one to 80 for five - because they needlessly expose a new batsman.

The smaller the crowd, the better. Before one-day cricket took the fancy of cricket followers in Asia, a Test match would attract capacity crowds - and if 50,000 people had been waiting four days for something to happen, they tended to get excited when England lost a few quick wickets.

It has been established that the quicker the heart-rate of an umpire, the more likely he is to raise his finger. Fortunately for England, it seems the crowds may not reach 10,000 until the fourth Test in Mumbai, because the third-Test venue of Mohali is not large and is on the outskirts of Chandigarh.

Also in England's favour: when a crowd is largely composed of schoolchildren, the atmosphere is not so intimidating. Try to reduce the number of fielders around the bat. The ICC has outlawed the practice of fielders charging at the umpire and screaming in his face, but five or six fielders leaping in the air can be pretty persuasive. England did not pressure the umpires, or India's batsmen, in the final session at Rajkot .

Note that collapses are more likely to happen in the day's final session than any other. While English bowlers plug away gamely throughout the day, those from Asia are liable to coast through the heat of afternoon and come alive after tea.

Do anything to stop Ashwin and Jadeja whisking through an over in less than a couple of minutes, building the pressure with dot-balls.

Slow them down with mid-pitch conversations, or a touch of cramp requiring the physio, taking each ball as it spits and spins.

Yet it can still be an impossible task for a new batsman walking out in Asia on a wearing pitch against India and Pakistan, or Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, who have learned how to turn home conditions to their advantage, and to seize the moment. (Telegraph)

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