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Why does India struggle against England's bottom half?

By Rajneesh Gupta
Last updated on: September 08, 2018 18:47 IST
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'Out of 7 innings England played before the Oval Test, their bottom half outscored the top-half in 4!' notes Rajneesh Gupta.

Jos Buttler and Stuart Broad have added 90 runs so far.

IMAGE: Jos Buttler and Stuart Broad added 98 runs for the ninth wicket.

At 198/7, when Jos Buttler and Adil Rashid came out to bat on the second morning of the Oval Test, the Indians must have hoped that the script would be different from what had played out all series.

Alas! it didn't.

Rashid went at 214, lbw to Jasprit Bumrah for 15.

Thereon, Stuart Broad -- whose batting and confidence at the crease went to pieces after he was hit in the face by a Varun Aaron bouncer in the India-England Test at Old Trafford in 2014; remember this is a man who scored a century at Lord's -- and Butler rebuffed the Indian bowlers.

Butler and Broad were involved in an infuential 98 run partnership for the ninth wicket. England added 134 runs from their overnight score.

In the first innings of the fourth Test England were reeling at 86/6, but ended with 246 -- an addition of 160 runs.

In the second innings, England were 122/5, effectively only 95 runs ahead.

Had India run through the tail, the visitors would have been chasing a rather easy fourth innings target on the way to level the series.

This was not to be as the England lower order batted stoutly against the Indian attack.


Not for the first time has the England tail wagged in the series.

In fact, this been the trend right through the series.

So much so that out of 7 innings England played before the Oval Test in this series, their bottom half has outscored the top-half in 4!

The only time this did not happen was in the Nottingham Test (that India won) and in the first innings of the Birmingham Test.

A comparison of England's top half (first five wickets) and bottom half (last five wickets) in the series:

England batting in the series

 Score at the fall of the 5th wicketRuns added by last 5 wickets
Birmingham Test: 1st innings 223 64
Birmingham Test: 2nd innings 85 95
Lord's Test: Only innings 131 265
Nottingham Test: 1st innings 108 53
Nottingham Test: 2nd innings 231 86
Southampton Test: 1st innings 69 177
Southampton Test: 2nd innings 122 138

Summary of England's top half vis-a-vis bottom half in this series. The bottom half has performed better than the top half!

England batting in the series (summary)

 RunsHighest ScoreAverage100 stands50 stands
First 5 partnerships 969 169 27.68 2 3
Last 5 partnerships 878 189 29.26 1 6

Just to put things in perspective, this is how India's top half and bottom half have performed in this series.

It is clear that there is not much difference in the performances of the top half of the two teams, but the difference lies in the performance of the bottom halves.

It is a series-deciding factor in fact!

India's batting in the series (summary)

 RunsHighest ScoreAverage100 stands50 stands
First 5 partnerships 1,042 159 29.77 2 6
Last 5 partnerships 585 57 18.28 0 2

What is interesting is that before the start of this series India had been the best among all sides in dealing with the bottom half ever since Virat Kohli became India's full-time Test captain.

Take a look:

Performance of last five wickets against each country (from Virat Kohli becoming India's full-time Test captain to before this series)

AgainstMatchesRunsBestAverage100 stands50 stands
Ireland 1 165 117 41.25 1 0
Zimbabwe 8 1,592 253 38.82 3 6
Afghanistan 1 146 67 29.20 0 1
Sri Lanka 39 7,665 173 26.61 15 27
Australia 38 8,337 211 26.13 10 42
Pakistan 26 5,006 154 25.15 8 22
Bangladesh 18 2,429 127 24.78 2 13
New Zealand 25 4,279 160 23.90 5 18
England 42 7,228 241 23.31 6 38
West Indies 28 3,851 213 22.92 3 18
South Africa 37 6,189 399 20.76 3 24
India 35 5,892 144 19.25 6 23

Bottom half's performance against India (since Virat Kohli became full-time Test captain)

 MatchesRunsBestAverage100 stands50 nstands
Before this series 35 5,892 144 19.25 6 23
In this series 4 878 189 29.26 1 6

In simple terms it means that India had been allowing the last five opposition wickets to add 96 runs on an average to their team total before the England series.

However, this figure has gone up to 146 in this series -- a difference of 50 runs!!

One can argue that may be the bottom half's lower average earlier was because of the fact that that India have played most of their matches at home in this period.

This is a valid argument.

Of course, what chance does the opposition's bottom half stand playing India in India against the likes of Ashwin and Jadeja?

So if they were doing terribly in India and at around the same level as England's bottom-half in their own country, the overall average will be low.

But is this the case, let us examine.

Before coming to England India had played 35 Tests since Kohli became India's full-time Test captain (in June 2015) -- 21 of them were played in India and 14 abroad.

The opposition's bottom half has performed better in its own country than in India which is only obvious, but the difference is not significant.

Opposition's bottom-half against India

(From Jun 2015 to before this series)

 MatchesRunsBestAverage100 stands50 stands
At home 14 2,460 144 20.84 4 7
in India 21 3,432 110 18.25 2 16

So, what did actually change in this series for India?

Maybe Kohli could have been more imaginative when the tailenders are batting, maybe the Indian bowlers ran out of ideas and ammunition after putting in all the energy in dismissing the top-order, maybe India had not done enough home work to deal with the likes of Sam Curran, maybe the England tailenders are indeed better batsmen than their top order.

There may be many reasons.

The think-tank and the specialists attached with the Indian team are supposed to get to the depth of the problem and put in the necessary measures.

They have not been much successful so far with the same issue cropping up again and again in the series.


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Rajneesh Gupta