Sankar: Inefficiency Against Tail a Cross to Bear for India

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As Nathan Lyon and Josh Hazlewood kept ticking the scoreboard with singles, soaking in the warm applause of the crowd, you could see a frustrated Virat Kohli going grimmer with each passing over. Finally, there was jubilation and relief after KL Rahul snapped a catch to get rid of Hazlewood that sealed India’s win.But Adelaide yet again exposed what has become a perennial problem for India – to dismiss the opposition lower-order and tail quickly. In Adelaide, India had the hosts reeling at 156/6, still 167 away from the target and yet they only managed to win by just 31 runs. The tail-enders (runs scored for wicket 7 and beyond) had put together 135 runs. Some might cite the example of the Johannesburg Test earlier this year when India cleaned up the Proteas’ tail for a mere 20 runs to win the dead rubber – but that was an aberration and not the norm!
The fact remains that the Indian bowling has a problem of dislodging the lower-order/tail after removing the top-order for not too many. In Adelaide, the lower-order scored 46.20% of Australia’s total runs adding 100-plus for the final four wickets across both innings. This was the second-highest number of runs India have conceded to the tail in a Test match in 2018.

Their numbers in England and South Africa aren’t very flattering either (numbers greater than 25% marked in green).

RS tail 1

In the last three Tests away from home, India have conceded more than 200 runs to the tail (runs for wickets 7-10). In Southampton and Adelaide, the opposition tail contributed to more than 45% of the team total.

RS tail 2

The increasing percentage of runs the tail has scored has been a major cause of worry for the Indians. Kohli has brushed aside criticisms around defensive field placements. Commentators and pundits have cited different reasons for the inability of the bowlers to get rid of the tail – from them being tired to operating with two fast bowlers in tandem, from the short-leg being missing to the scarce use of the bouncer. But the fact remains that the problem still persists and no exact solution has yet been found.

Since the start of 2018, no team has conceded more partnerships-runs for wickets 7-10 than India. They have given away 1861 runs at an average of 21.39 to the opposition tail.

RS tail3

New Zealand, Bangladesh and Pakistan have been the most effective against the tail while India and Australia have been poor.

At Adelaide, Australia’s tail scored at a rate of 3.05 (first innings) and 2.84 (second innings). What would be equally worrying for India is the length of time they occupied the crease – the Aussie tail batted out more than 80 overs across both innings.

RS TAIL 4

Australia’s final four were meticulous and organized in their run-scoring. They took calculated risks – this does not augur well for the Indian bowling attack – as potent and threatening they may be against the top-order.

RS TAIL 5

In most Test matches in 2018, the opposition tail has been scoring runs at a higher rate than the top-order against India, be it England, South Africa or Australia. The Indian bowlers seem to have developed a mental block when it comes to dismantling the lower-order.

India’s tail tales are well documented now. Cometh Perth and it remains to be seen whether the Indian bowlers can devise new strategies to get the better of the Aussie tail.

This is India’s best opportunity to win a Test series Down Under. They would not want the Hazlewoods, Starcs, Cummins and Lyons to stop them…at least not with the bat!

First Published: December 13, 2018, 7:38 AM IST