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India v England: Lessons from the first Test


The morning fourth, was supposed to be the last dawn this Test would see. After England’s first innings, the match was destined to set with the sun on 18th November. But a gritty hundred by Alistair Cook and a counter attacking half century by Matt Prior took the game into the fifth day. The cruelty of fate, however, is that despair generally follows a glimmer of hope. Prior and Cook’s resistance didn’t last too long on the fifth morning. It took 15.3 overs for India to chase 77, but England can be proud of their second innings effort. It appeared they had learned from their mistakes in the first innings and were looking to score off the loose balls. Some batsmen took the attacking diktat a little too far and perished but it was still a better ploy than being over defensive. The first Test belonged to India, but as always the losing team can learn a lot from it.

Lesson 1 : England needs more Cooks

Even though none of the Englishmen were afflicted with a stomach bug, they dearly need to bring in 4-5 Cooks. Alistair Cook showed the entire English team how to bat and yet none of them obliged to follow. He left balls outside off, waited for the loose balls and was decisive in his footwork. As always, there never was much flourish when he batted. He never drove the ball but gently caressed the ball into the gaps. His back foot play was commendable and he bided his time. He cut down on unnecessary shots and stuck to his own irritating and unappealing style of play. It wouldn’t be a bad idea if more of the batsmen followed his style for the next Test. It would be dull, boring and ugly as a wart covered hobbit, but not a bad idea.

England Batsmen: Batting Statistics against India in India (Tests)

Player Mat Inn NO Runs HS Ave 100 50 0
A Cook
5 10 1 521 176 57.88 2 3 0
M Prior
3 5 1 227 91 56.75 0 2 0
K Pietersen
6 11 0 384 144 34.90 1 2 0
N Compton
1 2 0 46 37 23.00 0 0 0
I Bell
6 12 1 202 57 18.36 0 1 1
J Trott
1 2 0 17 17 8.50 0 0 1

Lesson 2 : All Indians play cricket but all Patels can’t spin the ball

Considering Samit Patel as the second spinner was in hindsight, not the wisest decision. He bowled too many lose deliveries and released all the pressure Graeme Swann was creating from the other end. Swann was the lone spinner in the English side. The fast bowlers tried, but could not help him out. If the pitch for the first game is anything to go by, playing Monty Panesar for the next Test could be the better option. Graeme Swann certainly could use a helping hand.

England Bowlers: Bowling Statistics against India in India (Tests)

Player Mat Inn Overs Mdns Runs Wkts BBI BBM Ave ER SR 5/10
G Swann
3 6 159 25 506 14 5/144 6/190 36.14 3.18 68.1 1/0
M Panesar 5 10 197 42 615 11 3/65 3/131 55.90 3.12 107.4 0/0
S Patel
1 2 37 3 120 1 1/96 1/120 120 3.24 222 0/0

Lesson 3 : The harder you hit the pitch, the slower the ball goes

England fast bowlers need to find the length they need to bowl on these wickets. They were a bit too short in the first Test. Banging the ball into the pitch is never a good tactic in the sub-continent. There was a dearth of slower ones and cutters which could have been pretty dangerous on a turning track. Going in with two and a half seamers was not good selection in the first place. This may have been due to the unfortunate injury to Finn, but Bresnan’s selection was as smart a move as mixing medication with alcohol. When you’re in India, it’s smarter to play with two and a half spinners rather than seamers. If there is something in the wicket, surely Anderson and Broad are good and fit enough bowlers to support Swann with the occasional few overs bowled by Kevin Pietersen and Trott.

The Test series is still not entirely decided with three more Tests to go. Though it does seem like India will take the honours, the spunk and fight England showed in the second innings portends a tough series.

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