A historic victory

The victorious England team with the trophy after winning the four-Test series 2-1.-K.R. DEEPAK

While India needs to do some serious introspection following its debacle, the triumphant England has every reason to celebrate Christmas with added fervour. By Vijay Lokapally.

It was a reality check that ended in a rude shock for India. The defeat to England in a Test series at home, and that too after 28 years, was the last thing on the minds of the cricket lovers, who expected India to avenge the 0-4 drubbing it suffered last year in England.

Spin was the weapon with which India was expected to slay England. Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni found it fit to insist on pitches that would assist Ravichandran Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha. Things did turn India’s way in the first Test in Ahmedabad where it won by nine wickets. Spin did play a part in the triumph of the home team and things appeared to follow the script.

England, which had prepared well for the tour by playing a series against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi and, before that, testing its preparedness against Sri Lanka, brought in Monty Panesar for the second Test.

India, upbeat after a great start, was brought down to earth with Panesar making his presence felt in Mumbai. He foxed the Indian batting with not so much of spin but the speed with which he bowled. What contributed further to the fall of the host was some poor stroke selection by its top-order batsmen.

When England bounced back with a 10-wicket triumph in Mumbai, Dhoni reportedly insisted on a rank-turner in Kolkata. This drew flak from several former players and experts. Eventually, it did not take long for the more determined England to rub India’s nose in the dust, that too after losing the toss for the third successive time.

By this time, the batting of Alastair Cook had assumed legendary proportions. Backed by statistics, Cook was hailed as one of the finest performing skippers England had ever produced. But what was truly amazing was the monumental patience with which he batted. Even though he missed two double-centuries, his scores of 176, 122 and 190 almost wiped out memories of Cheteshwar Pujara’s double century in the first Test.

If Cook batted superbly in the first and third Tests, the maverick Kevin Pietersen produced one of his best knocks in the second. ‘KP’ planned and paced his innings brilliantly and set England on course, even as Panesar and Swann continued to torment the increasingly dispirited Indian batsmen. The seven-wicket triumph in Kolkata was a validation of England’s superiority.

The drawn fourth Test was enough to complete India’s misery and England’s momentous achievement.

Looking back at India’s overall performance, one big factor that did the team in was its lack of intensity. If batting failed more often than not, the bowlers looked predictable. If India prevented a hat-trick of defeats, it was thanks to the decision of the selectors to play Ravindra Jadeja, a debutant, and Piyush Chawla. It was also possibly the first time when India went into the match with just one pace bowler — Ishant Sharma — and three specialist spinners.

As the series progressed, it became clear that India had taken the potency of its spin attack for granted. The host also underestimated the ability of the opposition to play on “turning tracks”. What made matters worse was the Indian batsmen’s shortcomings in playing spin and pace at home.

The way the Indian top-order, including Sachin Tendulkar, played James Anderson, especially in the final Test showed that it was an overall batting failure of the host. Most Indian “performers” could not return to form or live up to their initial promise.

The Indian cupboard looks bare, ahead of the Test series against Australia and South Africa. After failing to make an impact on spin-friendly pitches at home, it is not difficult to guess how India will cope with quality opposition like the World No. 1 team.

Following the debacle, the Indian team needs to do some serious introspection. However, nothing much can be done if the best available players are woefully out of form. On the other hand, England has emerged a deserving winner. It has every reason to celebrate Christmas with added fervour and return with its one-day team to take on the world champion.

THE SCORES

Fourth Test, Nagpur, December 13-17, 2012. Match drawn.

England — 1st innings: A. Cook lbw b Ishant 1; N. Compton c Dhoni b Ishant 3; J. Trott b Jadeja 44; K. Pietersen c Ojha b Jadeja 73; I. Bell c Kohli b Chawla 1; J. Root c & b Chawla 73; M. Prior b Ashwin 57; T. Bresnan lbw b Ishant 0; G. Swann lbw b Chawla 56; J. Anderson c Pujara b Chawla 4; M. Panesar (not out) 1; Extras (b-5, lb-12) 17. Total: 330.

Fall of wickets: 1-3, 2-16, 3-102, 4-119, 5-139, 6-242, 7-242, 8-302, 9-325.

India bowling: Ishant 28-9-49-3; Ojha 35-12-71-0; Jadeja 37-17-58-2; Chawla 21.5-1-69-4; Ashwin 24-3-66-1.

India — 1st innings: G. Gambhir c Prior b Anderson 37; V. Sehwag b Anderson 0; C. Pujara c Bell b Swann 26; S. Tendulkar b Anderson 2; V. Kohli lbw b Swann 103; M. Dhoni (run out) 99; R. Jadeja lbw b Anderson 12; R. Ashwin (not out) 29; P. Chawla b Swann 1; P. Ojha b Panesar 3; Ishant Sharma (not out) 2; Extras (b-5, lb-7) 12. Total (for nine wkts., decl.) 326.

Fall of wickets: 1-1, 2-59, 3-64, 4-71, 5-269, 6-288, 7-295, 8-297, 9-317.

England bowling: Anderson 32-5-81-4; Bresnan 26-5-69-0; Panesar 52-15-81-1; Swann 31-10-76-3; Trott 1-0-2-0; Root 1-0-5-0.

England — 2nd innings: A. Cook c Dhoni b Ashwin 13; N. Compton lbw b Ojha 34; J. Trott c Kohli b Ashwin 143; K. Pietersen b Jadeja 6; I. Bell (not out) 116; J. Root (not out) 20; Extras (b-8, lb-6, nb-6) 20. Total (for four wkts., decl.) 352.

Fall of wickets: 1-48, 2-81, 3-94, 4-302.

India bowling: Ishant 15-3-42-0; Ojha 40-14-70-1; Ashwin 38-11-99-2; Chawla 26-6-64-0; Jadeja 33-17-59-1; Gambhir 2-0-4-0.