The essential stats of the Lord's Test are damning. In a single innings England batted 88 overs and one ball for a score of 396 runs and the loss of seven wickets; India, across two innings, faced only 82 overs and two balls while losing 20 wickets for a total of 237 runs.
In mitigation, England had the very best of myriad weather conditions - batting as they did in sunshine and bowling in Stygian gloom. Joe Root's likely lads were also on the right end of all the luck, as is so often the case when good teams are on a roll. By making the best of the conditions they made their own luck. When a Test match is concluded inside two days of actual playing time, the suggestion is of a vast gulf between the sides. Given India are ranked No. 1 in the world and England No. 5, the gulf is not on the side of the ledger that a casual observer might expect. Thus, the plot is thick.
Or is it? Is it, in fact, disappointingly thin? By no means is this the age of tenacity. If a smartphone goes crook tomorrow morning, it will be replaced by another, and more than likely, that replacement will be brand new. Not so long ago, the injured piece of kit would have been taken in for repair and the wait for that process accepted. Test cricket is a game of patience, both for player and viewer, a game with gently breaking waves and mighty seas. The character of the participants is reflected by the part they play in these motions and momentums. England have a prime case study in Stuart Broad, the ultimate "momentum" cricketer. Whatever the antonym of Broad may be, the inertia on show at Lord's from Cheteshwar Pujara is not far from it. And yet, in India on England's last visit, his name might as well have been Dravid for the wall he put up from the moment they arrived.
"Kohli can only have forgotten that in England, and especially when there has been rain about, Test matches are won and lost nearer the beginning than the end"
There's the rub. With the honourable exception of South Africa, the modern trend is for touring teams to fall apart like Brexit. Pujara tried everything he knew to rebuff that trend. With both a strong mind and stubborn temperament, he has made himself the most organised and efficient of batsmen; to be critical of his effort seems churlish, unkind even, for he stayed a while - one hour and 46 minutes precisely - facing 87 balls for 17 runs. But he had no gears, and the longer it went on, barely any game to speak of. The wrists that rescue in the subcontinent are potentially fatal on damp English shores, where a straight bat and sharp footwork are the starting points against the beast that is swing and seam. He tried - by heaven, he tried - but the longer he sweated, the more England's bowlers seemed to enjoy watching him sweat. While Mr Anderson and Co - a devastating matrix of four - did the killing at one end, Pujara did it for them at the other.
The relationship between the long form and short form of the game becomes ever more distant. Among batsmen, the ability to just "play" - which means to defend securely, manoeuvre the ball into spaces, and latch onto a bad ball - is being overtaken by the addiction to boundaries. Much was made of Andre Russell's recent 40-ball hundred in the Caribbean Premier League, a blitzkrieg of a thing, but few innings have more highlighted the distancing of a once-sacred relationship: the batsman and his technique. Russell was rarely sideways-on, displayed no high left elbow to speak of, hardly bothered to bend his front leg, used the depth of the crease only as a premeditated plan, and cleared his left side from the line of the ball as a matter of course. Wonderful as this was to watch, it would not have garnered him double figures at Lord's. Nor, incidentally, would it have done so in a Test match in India, where the balls spins dramatically and the wild dogs converge in packs upon helpless batsmen.
During the post-match stuff, Virat Kohli admitted to having picked the wrong bowling attack, but even those chosen were betrayed by their inability to concentrate for long periods or to examine the English batsmen with a consistent plan. Ishant Sharma must drive the selectors round the bend, for he is barely a different bowler from the one who started out a decade ago, and if he is, not enough of what he now offers sits in the column of profit. It is to England's great benefit that James Anderson and Stuart Broad are spared the white ball, a devil of a thing that plays with minds and saps bodies. At their age, skill and its application is more fun than self-defence.
Kohli can only have forgotten that in England, and especially when there has been rain about, Test matches are won and lost nearer the beginning than the end. It is how the English seamer has made his name and why the young wristspinner struggles to stay afloat. In India this plain fact is reversed: Test matches are set up at the beginning but won and lost as they go on. In India, the seamer is all but redundant and the wristspinner a cricketer of glorious possibilities.
For all this one-sidedness, Joe Root was wise to guard against complacency. India might well have come out on top at Edgbaston, and Root knows that at Lord's he won a potentially match-defining toss, the first of the many aspects of the match that went his way. It is only a short time back that his own team were in disarray on the same ground, having been properly thumped by Pakistan in late May, amid unsubstantiated allegations of match-fixing. Thankfully those were put to rest as quickly as the cricket was back on track, like within a week or so after a fine win at Headingley. Now the England captain can luxuriate in players, young and old, who are making their mark, and selection problems of mainly the best sort - who to leave out?
Kohli is not so fortunate and his team must quickly return to the game's basics. The arrogance that has been a signature of India's recent performances has been ousted by timidity. To make runs, the batsmen must stand tall and stare down their opponents. They must choose two, maybe three, scoring shots that reflect the conditions and to which they must remain slaves. Like for England in India, every ball suddenly looks unplayable, which, of course, it is not. But unless they impose themselves with a clearly positive mindset, good judgement and precise shot selection, the series will pass them by sooner than they settle into it.
If ever two captains needed a call to arms going forward, that well-worn phrase "It's never as good as you think it is and it's never as bad as you think it is" works well for them both.