cricketFirst, their bowlers and fielders failed them and yesterday it was the turn of the batsmen. Inconsistency is the name of the game for India. The so called strong Indian batting line-up lay sadly exposed as batsman after another batsman threw his wicket after looking settled. Of the top eight, seven of them crossed 20 and then couldn’t hold their temptation, when most required. With two full days play remaining, India stands on the verge of follow-on with only two wickets remaining and 47 runs still needed to make England bat again. England have controlled all nine sessions in the Southampton so far and it will be a miracle if India could save the test this time.

Beginning the day at 25/1, Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara held on until the 24th over of the innings and just when it looked that Pujara had settled, he fell to an extremely poor stroke. Broad had dug deep and the ball was flying menacingly. It could have gone harmlessly past Pujara but the batsman couldn’t get out of line in time. The evasive action, however, resulted in a gloved-touch and Joss Buttler got the first catch his test career. A score of 56/2 at this stage looked pathetic in reply to 569/7 decl. In walked Virat Kohli, who has lately been having a wretched time and this was the most opportune moment for him to redeem himself. He began well by curbing his instincts and with Vijay, added 32 for the third wicket. But soon, Kohli was witness to his partner getting out pretty poorly. It was Broad again with a superb delivery that got the inside edge of Vijay’s bat, before knocking off his stumps.

As India pushed themselves deeper into the mess, Ajinkya Rahane joined Kohli. The two batsmen played sensible cricket for a while, collecting runs only on loose deliveries and avoided all adventures. Then the impatience got the better of Virat Kohli. First he flashed at an away going ball from Chris Jordan and the edged shot went to Cook. Luckily for Kohli, Cook couldn’t complete the catch and Kohli reached 38. He scored another run in Jordan’s over and came back to face Anderson in the next. He didn’t offer any stroke to the first 5 balls but on the last, Anderson made him play and the edge off the seam was comfortably held by Cook this time. At 136/4, Rohit Sharma joined Rahane. The two batsmen did well to complete a 50-run partnership, though they had their moments of anxiety in between. Five minutes before tea, Rohit Sharma fell to a rank bad stroke. No one knows what went through his mind as he tried to play a powerless lofted shot to an innocuous delivery from Moeen Ali. As Stuart Broad thankfully held the catch Sharma’s innings came to an abrupt but avoidable end. At 210/5, India looked in dire straits even with Rahane and Dhoni out there in the middle.

After tea, Rahane threw his wicket in the most bizarre fashion. It was Moeen Ali, who had bowled a short-pitched ball that could have been dispatched without much trouble. But Rahane played a tennis-like lob at mid-on in the manner of a novice. It was an unpardonable stroke for someone well settled and the substitute fielder couldn’t have dropped the simplest of lollypops. 217/6 was a woeful score with the cream of the Indian batting having been skimmed off.

Dhoni was fighting a lone battle. First he had Ravindra Jadeja, with whom he added 58. But Jadeja couldn’t prolong his stay as Anderson found him plumb in front of the wicket after the batsman had scored 31. Dhoni next had the company of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who made 19 but helped Dhoni add 38 for the eighth wicket. Shami and Dhoni ended the day with 323/8 on the board but 47 runs were still needed to avoid follow-on, when the stumps were drawn on Day 3. It is uphill task for Team India, who played with an upper hand all through the Lords test.