2nd Test India vs England: The delayed declaration was a masterstroke in the psych-war

At the start of the 5th day England were in a winning, if not commanding, position. At best India should get a lead of perhaps 180, but certainly under 200, runs and England would have a comfortable 75 – 80 overs to get those. In any event, even if India managed to hold out for a full hour, there were just not enough overs left for England to be bowled out again to lose the match.

Or so it was thought.

There have been many good articles written about the India win (for example in The Guardian end even in Forbes) but what has escaped much attention is the psychological impact of Kohli’s delayed declaration. In my view, a master-stroke. After the ineptness of the England fielding tactics by a petulant Joe Root & Co had enabled the unexpected batting heroics by Shami and Bumrah, England were already in the sulking doldrums of a bullied bully. At lunch, India were leading by an astonishing 260 runs and a lunch time declaration would have given England about 66 overs to face. The odds for an England win had already plummeted. The asking rate of 3.9 runs/over was difficult but far from impossible from a team used to scoring 200 runs in the 20 overs of white-ball cricket. Losing the match by being bowled out in 66 overs was a very remote possibility.

But lunch was a time to shake-off the morning’s blues, for Sibley and Burns to gird their loins and for Root and Bairstow and Buttler to muster their resolve. So off they went, fully expecting to hear around 10 minutes before the lunch interval was over that Kohli had declared. The openers ate quickly and were getting ready to pad-up. The bowlers were licking their mental wounds and winding down physically. Their part was over. The others were just lounging around, trying to relax and secure in the knowledge that they didn’t have to field again. But the bombshell was the dawning realisation that no declaration was coming. That bloody Kohli was going to keep batting. That perverse Kohli was not even trying to win the match! He was just rubbing their noses in it. They whinged and whined. They were indignant. They felt hard done-by. This was just not cricket. The openers put away their pads and thigh-pads and boxes again. The bowlers rushed to finish their lunch. High dudgeon reigned.

And so the England team came out to field again after lunch. Those tail-end, master-batsmen, Shami and Bumrah came out smiling, anticipating more verbal scrimmages as they chased their maiden centuries. They were in no hurry – it seemed. Their opponents were now resentful at being there at all. Shami took down his trousers and waited for a new thigh pad. He wasted another 6 minutes. And then, just as England were getting resigned to another long session in the field, Kohli declared. He declared mid-over. Another 11 runs had been added. Shami was only 44 runs away from his maiden century and still Kohli declared!

Now they really had to rush. Burns and Sibley had only 10 minutes to pad-up and get their focus back. 

And, of course, they didn’t. They were both out for ducks. 1 for 2 it was.

And the rest is history.

But the non-declaration during the lunch break was a psychological masterstroke.


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