In Test cricket, there are two ways for the bowling side to create pressure. You either get wickets or simply stem the flow of runs. India failed to execute both (or either of) these strategies in the fourth innings of the Edgbaston Test and crashed to a defeat that many would find hard to fathom.
The failings of the batting line-up have been obvious for a while. Yes, they should have batted longer. Yes, they should have dealt with the short ball better. Yes, their shot selection could have been better. But despite all that they still gave England a target of 378 runs. Only seven times in the history of the game had a team chased down 378 or more, and despite all the talk about Baz ball, it presented a considerable challenge.
That was only until England started batting. The openers, Alex Lees and Zak Crawley, raised 107 in just 131 balls and put the pressure right back on the visitors. The Indian bowlers sprayed the ball a bit (too many deliveries on the legs) and to put it bluntly, it almost seemed too easy.
At no point did India attempt to make it a battle of attrition. Once they didn't get the early wickets, Bumrah and Co needed to take a step back and make the England batters work doubly hard for each run. But they kept attacking, trying to fight fire with fire and paid a heavy price.
A more experienced captain might have prompted the attack to dial things down a bit. The wicket was great for batting and the Dukes ball wasn't doing much either. So, a logical conclusion would have been to find a way to control the flow of runs.
That could've been done by adopting England's tactics and going heavy on the short ball with fielders in the deep or the visitors could also have taken a taken a leaf out of former skipper MS Dhoni's book; he wasn't averse to employing 7-2 fields and playing the waiting game if he felt it was warranted.
It also helped that Dhoni had a bowler like Ishant Sharma to fall back on. The lanky pacer didn't mind bowling the tough overs and would generally keep a lid on the scoring as well. When bowling in tandem with Bumrah and Shami over the last few years, he also ensured that the pressure was always on the batters.
In the three instances where India have failed to defend totals in the fourth innings in 2022, Ishant, or a bowler like him, has been missing. At Johannesburg, the team failed to defend 240. At Cape Town, 212 proved to too little. At Edgbaston, even 378 wasn't enough.
While Siraj can be a handful in helpful conditions, does he have the control to keep the batters quiet? In the second innings at Edgbaston, he conceded 98 runs in his 15 overs. Shardul Thakur was expensive too (11-0-65-0) and their performances meant India were just unable to keep the pressure on the opposition. This isn't to say that Ishant needs to come back into the mix but it certainly means that India needs a bowler who can perform a similar role.
The batting has let India down but something about the much-vaunted bowling line-up isn't quite adding up at the moment.
"Obviously, it has been disappointing for us," said India coach Rahul Dravid in the press conference. "We had a couple of opportunities in South Africa, here as well; I just think it is something we need to look at work upon. We have been very good at that in the last couple of years in terms of taking those 20 wickets and win those Test matches but we have not been able to do that in the last couple of months. It could be a variety of factors, it could be just maybe we need to maintain that intensity and maintain that level of fitness or performance right through the Test."
Dravid added: "We have not batted well as well, but if you look at all the second innings of Test matches overseas this year, the batting has probably not been up to scratch as well, so in both areas we have started the Test well but have not been able to finish well, and yeah, we need to get better with that and certainly improve."