India vs England Test Match Series Review
On Saturday 6th February, day two of the first test, England were 555/8 with Joe Root scoring his third score of 150+ in as many matches. Three days later, England bowled India out for 192 and won the first test by 227 runs. However, since then it has only been India who have both looked comfortable at the crease, and bowling a consistent line and length, resulting in England slumping to a 3-1 series defeat.
England have no one to blame other than themselves. Some may question the quality of the pitches, especially in the third test, but in that match 14 out of the 20 English wickets to fall were either LBW or bowled. Meaning the England players’ defensive technique was not up to scratch.
What also was not up to scratch was the English team selection. We are all aware of how mental health awareness is on the rise, and players requiring to be in the ‘bubble’ for the whole series is not easy. Player management needs to be at its peak; however, England have failed to do this correctly as summed up by Moeen Ali flying home after only playing the second test match. Moeen played very well in the second test, taking eight wickets, and scoring runs, so fans were confused about his ‘decision’ to fly back home. Yet it was later found out that the plan all along was for Ali to fly home after one test, a decision that was almost comical, and one that Root and Silverwood apologised for. Additional poor selection was the 11 picked for the third test, the day-night match. England thought that because the match was played with a pink ball and under lights it would be in favour of the swing bowlers. But as the scorecard shows this was not the case, as 19 English wickets fell to spin. England only playing the one front line spinner in Leach were never going to inflict the same amount of damage as the Indian bowlers did.
The Rotation Policy
The idea for a rotation policy sounds good on paper, resting players to ensure they are mentally and physically fit to prolong their career rather than having them ‘burn out’ in a few years. However, it is not made public where the priorities lie for the ECB and therefore fans are questioning the policy. This calendar year England are playing 17 test matches, which includes an away Ashes series, and a T20 world cup. The main problem England face, like most test playing nations, is that there are players are playing more than one format of the game. The likes of Buttler, Root, Stokes, Archer and Bairstow are all playing at least two formats, some of them playing all three. So, with many players playing more than one format, priorities have to be made. Do England try to win the test series and rest players during the T20 matches against India, which will dampen the preparation for the T20 world cup? Or do England rest players for the test matches and improve the T20 preparation? With the test matches now over, they have slightly prioritised the T20 format. In the test match series England used 17 players compared to India’s 14, yet only five English players played all four tests, and eight Indian players played all four. One can only assume that England are currently prioritising the T20 world cup over test cricket. This is a real kick in the teeth for the original format of the game.
The test matches were on Freeview for the first time since the infamous 2005 Ashes, which was arguably the best test match series of all time. I have met so many cricket lovers who have told me that because they could watch that series, they became lifelong cricket fans. Now I am not saying that anyone was expecting a series like that, but for people who may be watching England play cricket for the first time, to be regularly watching an English side that was not their best 11 is not something to be proud of, especially as England were playing so poorly. As the T20s and ODI matches will be back on Sky Sports, England are unlikely to have an opportunity like this again.
How good is this Indian Team?
When listening to a podcast earlier this week Rob Key asked the question “Is this the greatest Indian side of all time?” Now in reply he got some laughs out of Nasser Husain and some banter on twitter. Great names like Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dev, Dravid popped up and everyone brushed the comment under the rug, but I seriously think he has a point. There is no doubt that India has a seriously good bowling attack. Ashwin and Axar took 59 wickets between them, which was one more wicket than England took outright. What is even more impressive is that this was Axar Patel’s debut series, and he did not even play the first test. Sharma unsurprisingly didn’t bowl many overs in the series (59) but when he was required, he bowled very well at an average of 26.66 while Mohammed Siraj in the two matches he played bowled at an average of 22.66. Shami and Bumrah also add plenty of value with the ball with both of them averaging well under 30. India will have a big selection issue themselves when Jadeja is back from Injury as he in an incredible player both with the bat and ball. Rishabh Pant has firmly secured his spot with the gloves and India are going to enjoy his flair and aggressive batting for years to come. In 20 tests he is averaging 45 with the bat, which is made even more impressive as 14 of those matches were against Australia and England. Pant also took Australia apart in the remarkable 4th test victory earlier in the year at the Gabba and took England apart in the back end of this series. The batting is where this India team is not yet at a great level. With four out of their top five batsman all averaging under 30 in the series, Gill and Rahane averaging under 20, shows cracks in the batting. India often relied on the middle to lower order to score runs and they did not disappoint, with Pant, Ashwin and Sundar batting incredibly well. So even with weaknesses in the Indian top order they still managed to comfortably beat England which proves potential for them to become an incredible team.
Positives for England
Positives for this tour are few and far between but there are definitely some to be taken. Without a cloud in the sky England’s best-ever bowler Jimmy Anderson had a bowling average of 15.87 and a superb economy rate of 1.92, silencing critiques of him that say he can only do it on an overcast day with the Dukes ball. Joe Root carried his form into the first test with an incredible double hundred, but in the last three tests averaged only 18.33. Hopefully when the first test of the English summer starts he will be back to his best. After a frustrating Sri Lanka tour where Leach deserved more wickets than he got, here in India he at times looked like a world class spinner. His wicket of Rohit late on day four of the first test set up the victory on the fifth day and the Taunton born spinner finished the tour with 18 wickets at 28.78. Still some room for improvement but he is looking extremely likely to become England’s first choice spinner.
Written by Charlie Cole