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England vs India, 4th Test Preview: Partnerships will be the key

If you want to win the fourth Test, focus on partnerships

The fourth Test is just around the corner. It has been a topsy-turvy kind of series so far, with both sides dominating at some point.

In a series like this, teams often wonder what exactly is the formula for them to win, since, the graph of performance is invariably zig-zag.

Template for either team to win lies in their earlier performances in the series, either in the form of confidence from the good moments or in the form of learning from the bad moments.

Let’s revisit the first three Tests to understand what is key to success for the fourth Test.

During the first Test, the foundation for the disastrous 2nd Indian innings was laid during the first innings. Though India almost equaled the first innings score by England, it was a single-handed effort from Virat Kohli. None of the other batsmen scored runs, which implies there were no partnerships of note.

Not having partnerships has a multi-fold effect on the performance of the team. It means that batsmen are short on confidence since they are not spending enough time in the middle. On the other hand, the opposition bowling unit never gets tested. It implies that they are getting wickets at regular intervals. When there is no resistance from the batsmen, the bowlers don’t have to do anything different out of their comfort zone, which makes them look more lethal then what they are.

Looking back at the third Test, the partnership between Rahane and Kohli was the key. Both these batsmen were playing with so much ease and dominance at one point in time, that it made the other batsmen think about their game. Suddenly, the same English bowlers who wrecked havoc during the second Test were looking playable. Other Indian batsmen who were watching this from the dressing room now realized, hang on, conditions are not as bad as we were thinking. This confidence was oozing out from every top-order Indian batsman during the second innings.

This theory stands well for the English team as well. As Joe Root acknowledged, the problem with English batting in the recent past has been that there are too many batting collapses. Collapses result from lack of partnerships. During the first innings of the third Test, England had a terrible collapse. Indian bowlers were looking like taking a wicket on every ball, but, the moment there was a partnership between Buttler and Stokes in the second innings, the same Indian attack was looking impotent. It took the second new ball to dislodge English lower middle order.

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