Yesterday in Nagpur England completed a memorable series win against India, the first time they have done so in 28 years. This series has been an important one from both teams points of view and I’m going to have a look back and talk about exactly why that is. Its not easy for any team playing in India, the overwhelming support for the home team can create an intimidating atmosphere for any side. Let alone the spin friendly conditions which England are normally never able to adapt to.
1st Test Nov 15-19th Ahmedabad
The series started badly for England in Ahmedabad as India won this game by 9 wickets. England went with three pace bowlers and only one full time spinner in Swann for this match and were severely punished. Only Anderson managed to take a wicket all game, the rest went to Swann who took 6, Patel and Pietersen. Both part time spinners who were overused in this game.
India set a mammoth 521 in their first innings thanks largely to Pujara’s unbeaten double hundred and Sehwag’s 117. It only took some heroics from Cook in the second innings, scoring 176, to make India bat again albeit with modest total of 80 to get.
2nd Test Nov 23-26th Mumbai
England learnt their lesson from the first test and returned Panesar to the starting lineup. He showed them what they’d been missing by taking 11 wickets in the match partnered by Swann with 8, doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out this was a spinners wicket. India had a decent first innings setting 327 but England buoyed by the bowlers performance posted 413 in reply. The special thing about this innings was Cook and Pietersen each scoring their 22nd Test hundred equalling the record for any English batsman. India collapsed to only 142 in their second innings and Cook and Compton closed without a problem to level the series 1-1.
3rd Test Dec 5-9th Kolkata
This Test will certainly be remembered as the day Cook became the first English batsman ever to hit 23 Test match centuries. At the age of 27 his career is only half way through so many more hundred are sure to come, cementing Cooks place as an England legend.
India hit 316 with Panesar showing again that he is a very handy bowler taking 4 wickets and Anderson showing the spinners that the fast blowers can still take wickets on Indian pitches with 3. England hit 523 in reply with Cooks record breaking 190 gracing the scorecard. India could only manage 247 in reply after a rare fast bowling display from Anderson and Finn taking 3 a piece. England only needed 41 to win which they achieved after a bit of a scare losing Cook, Trott and Pietersen early leaving Bell and Compton to steady the ship and pull England ahead 2-1. This meant India could now only draw the series with a win in Nagpur.
4th Test Dec 13-17 Nagpur
For the deciding Test England decided to give young opener Joe Root his first cap batting at number 6. They will be glad they did as he was joint top scorer with the much more experienced Pietersen on 73 in the first innings as England managed 330. India strangely declared on 326, 4 short of England’s total, in a very slow scoring match. Andersen was pick of the England bowlers taking 4 wickets, backed up by the consistent Swann with 3. England managed to bat out the remaining time earning a draw and series win. The draw was thanks to Trott who scored 143 and Bell, who had not been able to find his form in previous matches, scoring an unbeaten 116. There was even time for a brief cameo from the impressive Root on debut scoring 20 to close out the day with Bell.
So what will this series be remembered for? Obviously Englands first win in 28 years will be near the top of the list, as will Cook becoming the first English batsman to score 23 Test hundreds. There are a few more subtle thing that may become apparent in the next few years. England are a relatively young side, Cook at only 27 and newly installed as captain will be there for many years to come. In fact Trott, Pietersen, Bell, Prior, Panesar are all in their early 30’s which gives them a balance of experience and energy. Young players like Root at only 21 will be able to learn a lot from them, but the team is likely to be together a long time. England have a number of players who didn’t feature in the Test series waiting in the wings, Bairstow, Buttler, Borthwick (or the three B’s as I like to call them) would all be capable of stepping up. Don’t write off Morgan or Onions either.
In contrast India is a side with a lot of older players. Gambhir, Sehwag, Tendulkar, the big three, are all very close to retirement age. Whilst they are incredibly talented, Tendulkar is arguably one of the best ever, they need to be replaced fast. These three occupy vital batting positions, 1, 2 and 4 and without them India’s batting will be looking very vulnerable in the years to come.
One last thing that has really irritated me is India’s refusal to use the DRS video review system. Every other Test nation consents to the use of this system, it aids the umpires to make tough calls and also allows the players an appeal when they feel hard done by. India claims it is not accurate enough, but I am yet to see a DRS decision I disagree with. It’s time they implemented this system fully and got on with playing cricket.
By Jack Troup