Unlike the Leeds Test, a rather steamed up bowling line-up of India were able to make inroads following a batting debacle. Virat Kohli would especially be happy to see the back of the England skipper Joe Root, who has been a thorn in India’s path this series.
Though the deficit is small, the Indian bowling unit will accept the challenge on day two with glee as none of the English batsmen, barring Root, have had great outings this year.
For the English batters, this will be a stern test. Almost every time this year their skipper has bailed them out with daddy hundreds. Now, it is up to the others to cut down the deficit.
Root has contributed 35.6 percent (582 runs) of the runs this series for England whereas the next-best has been Jonny Bairstow with 9.9 percent (147 runs) of the runs, a dire contrast.
To add to their agony, the hosts have just four batters who have crossed the 150-run mark this series. England, really, have thus far been carried by only one man.
Furthermore, in the year 2021, post the win in Chennai in the first Test, Root in nine innings has succumbed to a score of less than 35. Out of those nine, three have been at home. In those nine matches, England on average have scored just 153 runs. Only twice in these nine matches have they scored above 200 with 303 being their highest in Birmingham against New Zealand earlier to this series.
In the three-home innings in which Root has got out cheaply, England have scored just 182 runs on average - a clear indication as to how much they have depended on their skipper.
Is there another low score around the corner?
There are more reasons to worry for the English batsmen for Day 2. In the last five matches at the Oval, teams batting second have had a tough time. On average, teams have scored 239 runs in the second innings since 2015 at the Oval - only in Manchester, this figure is lower (238). Apart from the 542 scored by Pakistan in 2016, only one score of 250+ has been achieved here in the second innings.
Batting teams have averaged 27.1 in the second innings, whereas in all the other innings, the average is over the 30 mark. In the first innings, including the Indian innings, teams have averaged 33. On the other hand, in the second innings it drops down to 27.1. Again, in the third (34.9) and the fourth (30.1) innings the average is on the higher side. From the first innings to the second innings there is an average difference of 5.9, which is the second highest at a venue in England in the last six years.
At The Oval against England in 2016, Pakistan had gained a lead of 214 after scoring 542, and this is the only instance of a team batting second taking the lead since 2015. Moreover, this was also the only match in the aforementioned time-frame where a team batting second had won the match.
But everything is not gloom and doom. Despite the dependency on Root, the return of Ollie Pope and Chris Woakes should serve as a boost for the hosts. Especially Pope, who has a tremendous first-class record at this venue. In 19 innings at this venue, the youngster has smashed 1455 runs at an average of 97 with two half-centuries and seven centuries. If he can replicate what he has been doing at The Oval, England will be more than happy.
With all the different probabilities, the match is poised perfectly. The weather might also play a part, with a significant cloud cover expected at the start of the day. At the same time, however, clear skies are expected towards the day’s end, so it might be imperative for the Indian bowlers to strike early.
Having made crucial inroads in the final hour of Day 1, It is now up to the Indian bowlers to once again seize the opportunity and put a stranglehold on England in the early hours of day two.