In The ICC World Test Championship Why Are India Not Able To Defend Totals 4th Innings?


In ICC World Test Championship cricket, it is almost impossible for all teams to catch up in the 4th innings. Even the top three Test-playing nations, India, Australia, and England, struggled to hunt down goals in the 4th innings. According to ESPNcricinfo, between 2014 and 2021, all Test-playing nations combined to score just 27.5 runs per wicket or less in the last innings of a test.

In The ICC World Test Championship Why Are India Not Able To Defend Totals 4th Innings?

There might be several reasons for this, including increasingly bowling-friendly wickets over the past 5 years, quality bowling attacks, and generally below-par batting. This trend has proven to be even more accurate in the case of India in the last four years.

India's 4th Innings Record In ICC Test Championship

Since the start of 2018, when India embarked on their overseas journey under Virat Kohli, they have played in 29 tests outside the subcontinent. Of those 29, 16 have been won by the team batting first and only 9 times have a side won by chasing a total, with the rest of the tests resulting in innings defeats or draws. Of those 9 chases, there were only two instances where a team chased down more than 300, which was India's win at the Gabba and their recent loss against England. In fact, except in the Gabba test, none of India's overseas victories have come while chasing in the 4th innings.

But since the turn of the year, there have already been 6 instances where teams have chased down 200-plus targets. Only in 2008 have there been more successful 200-plus chases than in the current year. India has been on the receiving end of the spectrum in three instances and coincidentally, they have all occurred in their last three overseas tests.

Historically, India has been very good at finishing the job in the 4th innings owing to their quality spinners and a lethal pace attack. Since the start of 2018, only 9 times have India batted first and lost a test. Apart from the three tests in question and keeping aside two innings defeats, none of the targets have been more than 200 for the opposing team. This clearly shows that when the batsmen put enough runs on the board, more often than not, the bowlers get the job done in the 4th innings. So why has India suddenly lost its ability to skittle out the opposition in the last innings?

India In Decline At ICC Test Championship?

India's bowling attack has been heralded as one of the best in the world by many experts after their success in overseas conditions. With fast bowlers like Shami, Bumrah, Umesh, Siraj, and one of the world's best spinners in Ashwin and Jadeja, India have a well-rounded bowling line-up that is capable of taking 20 wickets on any surface.

While they remain untouchable at home, some chinks have started to appear in the bowling in overseas conditions. The bowlers have now failed to defend scores of 240, 212, and 378 in their last three overseas tests. Though 240 and 212 look like straightforward chases, they were played on surfaces that provided ample assistance to the Indian bowlers.

In Bumrah and Shami, India still has one of the best new-ball pairings in world cricket, but the performances of the 3rd and 4th seamers have been hampering the Men in Blue. In Johannesburg, it was Siraj and Thakur, who also featured in Birmingham as well, while Umesh Yadav replaced an injured Siraj in Cape Town.

In Johannesburg, while others were conceding over 3 runs per over, Siraj alone accounted for 37 runs in his 6 overs, releasing the pressure on the opposition. In the 3rd Test at Cape Town, Umesh Yadav provided the release, conceding his 100 runs at an economy of 4 in a low-scoring affair. The situation was even worse in the match against England, where Siraj and Thakur conceded at a rate of 6.3 per over while bowling zero maidens.

While India was attacking with Shami and Bumrah, the change bowlers simply couldn't stem the flow of runs. Shami's tendency to blow hold and cold and Jadeja's inability to take advantage of the rough outside of the right-hander's leg stump hurt India badly. This resulted in England chasing down 378 at over 5 rpo, something unheard of in test cricket.

While analyzing India's bowling in the final innings, former India pacer Ashish Nehra said on Extra Innings, "Indian bowlers looked slightly overconfident as they thought chasing 378 isn't going to be easy for England. They didn't bowl in the right areas and could hardly choke the flow of runs, they never put the batters under pressure as English players kept rotating the strike at will. The fielding placements were also not good. It is nothing but a reality check for the bowlers for they've failed to defend the total for the third time in a row in the fourth innings. We witnessed something similar in the last two Tests in South Africa where our bowlers failed to pick up 10 wickets in the fourth innings."

Will India Be Missing Ishant Sharma In The ICC Test Championship?

This begs the question of whether India has missed the services of Ishant Sharma as the 3rd seamer. Ishant has been a key member of the bowling group, which has delivered huge success for India but wasn't picked in all three tests. His ability to bowl "long and boring" spells and dry up the runs while picking up timely wickets hasn't been replaced yet.

India Batting Collapses 3rd Innings In The ICC Test Championship

While the bowlers haven't done a good job, the batsmen aren't entirely without blame either, especially in the 3rd innings. In Johannesburg, they lost their last 7 wickets for 103 runs, while in Cape Town, none of the batsmen crossed 30 to support Rishabh Pant's century. On both occasions, India should have given a target of over 300 but ended up with less than 250. In Birmingham, there was a sense of complacency after the lead crossed 200. On the morning of day 4, India failed to maximize good batting conditions, which meant their lead didn't cross 500, which would have put England out of the game.

India will feel they have missed two golden opportunities to win a series in England and South Africa, even though they have played some good cricket.

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