Where each player pulls his weight

A perfect match… Alastair Cook with the England team director, Andy Flower. The England captain has improved his game considerably with inputs from Flower.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

Andy Flower and Mushtaq Ahmed, foxy veterans both, have been the men behind England’s success. By Vijay Lokapally.

Andy Flower and Mushtaq Ahmed loom large in the backdrop of England’s brilliant performance against India. The defeat in Ahmedabad is like a forgettable aberration following the convincing victories in Mumbai and Kolkata.

The introspection in the Indian dressing room has caused more concern now than at any point in the last decade. The Englishmen, on the other hand, seem a determined lot, making them a Test team to be envied.

Flower and Mushtaq, foxy veterans both, were known to study their opponents and plot their defeat. Flower thrived on the pitches in the sub-continent and was always a difficult batsman to dismiss for the Indian bowlers. He had a technique that was flexible. He could pull down the shutters or open the floodgates in quick time.

Mushtaq had the skill to work the ball. He was a leg-spinner with a big turn and a break that could stun even a batsman who took pride in his swift footwork. Mushtaq was quick to read the form and mind of an opponent and he would bring in innovations that made him a lethal bowler to face.

Steve Finn and James Anderson (below) bowled very effectively.-AP

AP

Embarking on the tour to India, it was clear that England was set to face a team that had a few points to make. M. S. Dhoni and his men had lost 0-4 in England and a reversal of that result was high on the team’s agenda. It’s only that the preparation was missing. Full credit to England that it ensured its players travelled to India with a positive mindset.

A training camp in Dubai was the right way for England to build up confidence and prepare for the tour of India. The English batsmen realised their role and the bowlers learnt different ways of launching their attack.

For Alastair Cook, it was a comforting thought that he had made a century on debut in the Nagpur Test in 2006. The pleasant memories of that knock allowed Cook to back his game, which had improved a few notches with inputs from Flower. The England captain said that he had learnt to play with greater aggression, and also to hit the ball high. Stepping out to the spinners was an option he used to substantial benefit.

Cook was quite forthcoming on the tactics his team adopted to confront India. “Lot of hard work. We carried what we did in the nets to the field. It was a great effort by the bowlers too. It was highly skilled stuff,” he said.

Cook was right when he said not many have come to India and dominated the way England has. Batsmen have occupied the crease for almost a day. Cook and Kevin Pietersen have led the England batting since both have the experience and the prowess to take on the spinners.

The English batsmen have made technical adjustments to make the most of their good form. Cook concentrates on playing straight, while Pietersen has used his feet remarkably.

Pietersen’s aggression tends to upset the rhythm of the bowlers and it has been a fascinating contest between him and the Indian spinners. The bowlers challenged Pietersen repeatedly and he responded bravely.

Flower’s influence on the English batsmen is most perceptible. The former Zimbabwe captain was known to make the bowlers earn his wicket. Cook and Pietersen have made Indian bowlers toil, with patience being the highlight of their run accumulations in Mumbai and Kolkata.

The English bowlers have complemented their batsmen. The success of the batsmen, as Cook pointed out, has primarily come from judicious shot selection. “Leaving the ball has been a plus,” was Cook’s assessment on the ability of the English batsmen to bat long.

According to the England captain, his team improved after identifying its problems. Little time was lost as the seniors showed the way. There must have been a few tired legs in the dressing room as the bowlers performed their job with commitment. It was also a tribute to their fitness and ability to adapt.

England's spin bowling coach, Mushtaq Ahmed (centre) has a word with Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann. Mushtaq is a key factor in the England spin bowling acquiring teeth.-AP

Mushtaq is a key factor in the England bowling acquiring teeth. In conditions where the Indian bowlers flopped miserably, the pace duo of James Anderson and Steven Finn worked in tandem with the spin pair of Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar.

Anderson swung the ball either way remarkably even as India’s Zaheer Khan failed. Finn extracted bounce, while Ishant Sharma could not. Swann and Panesar were outstanding, catching the batsmen off-guard with turn and straighter ones.

Bowling long spells was the mantra for the English team. As for the reverse-swing that England bowlers managed, it was not hard to surmise. They had a perfect teacher in Mushtaq, who did not confine himself to coaching the spinners alone. While playing for Pakistan, Mushtaq had been the man in charge of ‘maintaining’ the ball for Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis to play havoc in all conditions. He passed on his tricks to the English bowlers, who left the Indians a miserable lot.

THE SCORES

Third Test, Kolkata, December 5-9, 2012. England won by seven wickets.

India — 1st innings: G. Gambhir c Trott b Panesar 60; V. Sehwag (run out) 23; C. Pujara b Panesar 16; S. Tendulkar c Prior b Anderson 76; V. Kohli c Swann b Anderson 6; Yuvraj Singh c Cook b Swann 32; M. Dhoni c Swann b Finn 52; R. Ashwin b Anderson 21; Zaheer Khan lbw b Panesar 6; Ishant Sharma b Panesar 0; P. Ojha (not out) 0; Extras (b-5, lb-13, w-5, nb-1) 24. Total: 316.

Fall of wickets: 1-47, 2-88, 3-117, 4-136, 5-215, 6-230, 7-268, 8-292, 9-296.

England bowling: Anderson 28-7-89-3; Finn 21-2-73-1; Panesar 40-13-90-4; Swann 16-3-46-1.

England — 1st innings: A. Cook (run out) 190; N. Compton lbw b Ojha 57; J. Trott c Dhoni b Ojha 87; K. Pietersen lbw b Ashwin 54; I. Bell c Dhoni b Ishant 5; S. Patel c Sehwag b Ojha 33; M. Prior c Dhoni b Zaheer 41; G. Swann c Sehwag b Ojha 21; S. Finn (not out) 4; J. Anderson c Sehwag b Ashwin 9; M. Panesar lbw b Ashwin 0; Extras (b-13, lb-4, nb-5) 22. Total: 523.

Fall of wickets: 1-165, 2-338, 3-359, 4-395, 5-420, 6-453, 7-510, 8-510, 9-523.

India bowling: Zaheer 31-6-94-1; Ishant 29-8-78-1; Ashwin 52.3-9-183-3; Ojha 52-10-142-4; Yuvraj 3-1-9-0.

India — 2nd innings: G. Gambhir c Prior b Finn 40; V. Sehwag b Swann 49; C. Pujara (run out) 8; S. Tendulkar c Trott b Swann 5; V. Kohli c Prior b Finn 20; Yuvraj Singh b Anderson 11; M. Dhoni c Cook b Anderson 0; R. Ashwin (not out) 91; Zaheer Khan lbw b Finn 0; Ishant Sharma b Panesar 10; P. Ojha b Anderson 3; Extras (b-8, lb-2) 10. Total: 247.

Fall of wickets: 1-86, 2-98, 3-103, 4-107, 5-122, 6-122, 7-155, 8-159, 9-197.

England bowling: Anderson 15.4-4-38-3; Finn 18-6-45-3; Panesar 22-1-75-1; Swann 28-9-70-2; Patel 1-0-9-0.

England — 2nd innings: A. Cook st. Dhoni b Ashwin 1; N. Compton (not out) 9; J. Trott lbw b Ojha 3; K. Pietersen c Dhoni b Ashwin 0; I. Bell (not out) 28; Extras 0. Total (for three wkts.): 41.

Fall of wickets: 1-4, 2-7, 3-8.

India bowling: Ashwin 6.1-1-31-2; Ojha 6-3-10-1.