Known to be notoriously poor series starters, India took a big step towards setting the record straight with an excellent display on Day 1 of the first Test against England at Trent Bridge, Nottingham.
Riding on the back of superb spells of bowling from Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami, India bowled England out for just 183 in the first innings before Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul saw out the final hour of the day.
Having put themselves in the ascendancy, the visitors need a fruitful Day 2 to take firm control of the first Test. Here are three things India need to do.
#3 India need to be wary of the first passage of play
With the final hour to negotiate against a solid, well-rounded England pace attack, India’s openers put on a promising partnership on Day 1. Although boundary balls were few and far between, Rohit and Rahul showed restraint and caution to reach Stumps unscathed.
India need much of the same from their openers on Day 2. The opening session of Day 1 saw the Indian bowlers generate appreciable swing, with the morning cloud cover at Trent Bridge proving conducive to swing and seam. Virat Kohli’s men need to be wary of the threat the first hour possesses, especially with bowlers like James Anderson and Stuart Broad steaming in.
Should India get through the opening passage of play without too much damage, they will have set a platform for the misfiring middle order to bat without undue pressure. The World Test Championship final, where an excellent first session for New Zealand tilted the scales against India, is still fresh in memory.
#2 India need one man to bat through the innings
Speaking of the misfiring middle order, India need one of their key batsmen to bat through Day 2 and keep one end ticking. Joe Root performed the role to a certain extent for England, but who will step up for India?
Rohit has often blunted the new ball but thrown away his starts, having notched up middling scores after doing all the hard work early on. Rahul is playing his first Test since 2019 and looked slightly nervy on Day 1.
It’s been 30 months since Cheteshwar Pujara scored a Test century, while Virat Kohli is going through a drought of his own. Ajinkya Rahane has come under severe criticism for his inconsistency, while Rishabh Pant is a maverick who cannot be expected to play the anchor role.
Despite the above shortcomings, India aren’t short of world-class matchwinners in the middle order. One of Rohit, Pujara, Kohli and Rahane must step up to help their team establish a firm grip on the first Test.
#1 India must show intent to score runs on Day 2
A word that has been thrown around carelessly over the last couple of years by the Indian team, “intent” will be crucial on Day 2 of the first Test. In conditions where a batsman is never really in, India will need to make the most of the loose deliveries on offer and put pressure on a couple of England bowlers.
In the World Test Championship final, all four Kiwi pacers – Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Kyle Jamieson and Neil Wagner – were able to strike a rhythm. Even Colin de Grandhomme was treated with abundant respect as the Indian batsmen survived for long periods of time without any real impact on the scoreboard.
The same cannot happen in the first Test against England. Dom Sibley’s knock on Day 1 is the perfect example of why this approach isn’t sustainable at Trent Bridge. The opener played 70 laborious balls before an innocuous leg-lined delivery saw him softly dismissed playing a flick.
Sibley spent over two hours at the crease, with only 18 runs to show for. Others like Jonny Bairstow and Zak Crawley, who seemed set in the middle, suddenly found themselves in the pavilion.
India need to take the attack to the third and fourth pacers in the England attack, and capitalize on any scoring opportunities on offer. Pujara, Kohli and Rahane – as well as the other batsmen – cannot afford to go into their shell.