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Some positives for England

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England_cricket_future_TestWith their demolition of England, India has now won 5 Test series in a row, equalling their streak between 2008 and 2010. But all hope is not lost for England just yet, as they had a rather decent series. Playing India in India has always been tough, and with England lacking quality spinners coming into the series, the question was: Will they be able to pick up Indian wickets at regular intervals? That question has been answered, and Adil Rashid has been a revelation for England.

Rashid has proven that he is capable of filling the boots of Graeme Swann and can easily become England’s first choice spinner. Coming into this series, the average fan didn’t know who Adil Rashid was. 5 matches later he is one of the most prominent names. He has picked up 23 wickets in 8 innings against India this series, and that is no easy task, given how well the Indian batsmen have played. Further, Rashid has helped out with the bat as well, scoring a valuable 60 in the first innings of the final match. Rashid’s partner in crime, Moeen Ali, has also been impressive. He has performed more with the bat than the ball, but he played his part in helping England draw out the first match.

 

Another positive England can take out of this Test series is the strong performances put in by their youngsters. Jake Ball, Keaton Jennings, Haseeb Hameed and Jos Buttler have all been impressive. Buttler was coming off a long break from Test cricket and scored his first 50 in over a year. The remaining three recently debuted for the England squad, and have put in some good performances.

If the squad continues to play the same way, it is likely that England will achieve success in the Test format. As Hameed has returned home after an injury, the rest of the youngsters will be looking forward to earn his spot, and this should motivate them to put in better performances.

While most of the players have put in good individual performances, the team doesn’t seem to be able to work together under Cook. One of the biggest disappointments in this series has been Alastair Cook’s captaincy. Some of his decisions have been questionable.

For example, his decision to declare in the first Test with 50 overs to go was rather controversial. With India needing 310 runs, a draw seemed inevitable, but India had an outside chance of going on to win. On the other hand, there was no chance England could pick up 10 Indian wickets in 50 overs, certainly not the wickets of technically sound players like Vijay, Pujara, and Kohli. Sure, the bowlers did well enough to make it look like England could actually win the game, but the sad truth is that India could have won just as easily, and declaring early just wasn’t worth the risk.

Further, what Cook did by declaring was give Kohli the chance to dictate the game. Due to this, the Indian captain could now decide whether he wanted his team to play aggressively and try and win the match, or to play slowly and aim for the draw.

 

Letting your opponent control the game is one of the biggest mistakes a captain can make, and Cook has been criticised for doing this far too often. On the positive side though, there have been talks of him resigning as the captain. While this won’t be beneficial in the short run, it could help the team in the future. A new captain would be like a fresh breath of air, and maybe that’s what the England team needs. The failure of the team in the series against India could provide incentive for Cook to resign, and this makes the loss slightly less painful.

While the series result may suggest that England played poorly and were outclassed by India that is only partially true. Sure, India was the better team, but we shouldn’t take any credit away from England either. Playing competitive matches against the current Indian team (on their home turf), is no easy task.

The English batsmen did well, and even managed to get to 400 in the 1st, 4th and 5th Test matches. 400 is an important milestone, because teams need to play well to cross the 400 run barrier. Sure, any team can score 200 or 300 odd runs with only one player playing well, but to scoring 400 runs requires a team effort. For example, in the 4th Test, Cook almost got a 50, Moeen Ali got a 50, Buttler got 76, Jennings got a century, and even Jake Ball chipped in with 31. The 400 signifies the solidarity in the batting order of England. It has proven that the team isn’t heavily reliant on Joe Root, as many critics had claimed.

Further, this series has been a learning experience for the tail-enders, testing just how deep the English batting order goes. All of England’s bowlers contributed a little with the bat and showed that they can hold up their own when required. In the 4th Test, Jake Ball came in as night watchman in the second innings, and shielded the ‘greater’ batsman. He played out three whole overs under the lights on a turning pitch, only getting out on the final delivery of the day. While he did not get too many runs, he did his job playing out the day and giving England time to rethink their strategy.

Even though it was a rather dismal series for England, the fans have a lot to be optimistic about going into the ODI series with India. England doesn’t have any Test matches scheduled until July next year, which should give them enough time to patch up their flaws. For all we know, they could whitewash South Africa come July, if they work in the correct direction. Whether the ECB chooses to work towards victory remains to be seen.

 

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