Bloody hell what a difference a week or two makes. Embarrassed and dejected after Lords England absolutely annihilated India in the 4th Test match of the series to take a 2 1 lead in the 5 Test series. We can’t lose from here but a draw would be travesty if we let it slip, such has been the margin of victory in the last two Test matches.
The game started well for England with Dhoni opting to bat under grey skies on a questionable pitch. Cook said he’d have batted first which may not be true, but thank god the coin worked the other way so we didn’t have to find out which way our Captain would have opted.
First innings. Manchester. Wet. Damp. Overcast. The ball was swinging round corners. I logged onto to the BBC live commentary and couldn’t believe what I saw. People like to use the phrase ‘cricket score’ when referring to weird score lines or a good hammering in a game of football. However India losing their top 4 batsmen for just 8 runs is more akin to something you’d see at Eldon Leisure in the 5 a side League on a Monday tea time. 8-4. That was effectively game over. Dhoni and Ashwin put up some resistance and dragged themselves towards 250 and it was never going to be enough.
England didn’t bat great on a difficult pitch but Bell, Butler and especially Joe Root got England to an impressive 350+ score and when India collapsed again in one session on Day 3 the game was England’s.
Despite rain delay’s England, incredibly, prevailed within 9 sessions of cricket only having to bat once. There are so many positives too. Inevitably Cook’s captain is improving. He didn’t score big runs but he seems far more at ease in the role after a couple of wins. Ian Bell’s renaissance continued and Joe Root is probably the inform batsmen in the world right now. Jos Butler looks like he’s ready to play for England for the next ten years, at least. Sam Robson is the only negative with another failure outside his off stump.
Of course the real triumph is the bowling. The support bowlers actually took wickets and Moeen got another four in their second innings. Second leading wicket taker in the series. Jimmy swung it like we know he can and Stuart Broad was phenomenal. The lad is playing injured and it came out before the Test that he’ll have to have an operation at the end of the Summer – so he’s basically playing injured. He’s faced accusations (from me as well) that he thinks he’s better than his is and that his breath-taking spells once a summer are too infrequent for a player of his skill.
6 for 25 in the first innings was as good a spell of pace bowling as you’ll see. Yes maybe this is his ‘once a summer’ spell but when it comes, Christ it’s good.
Onto the Oval now this week where a 3 1 England win will set this new look team up very nicely for an important 18 months ahead.