Tuesday, July 26, 2011

England continue to prosper at Lords

For so long, the England cricket team struggled at the home of the game with visiting test sides regularly handing out pastings to the home team. No longer is this the case as Strauss and his side have moulded into a far tougher proposition with no little talent.

England will take much heart from this win against India but at the same time they must see the victory within context much in the same way that India should not be too disappointed. Little went M.S. Dhoni's way in this test match be it injuries or illness. It may be that the 'luck' was evened up a little after India chose to re-introduce that quantity to the equation by scandalously vetoing the use of the DRS system for LBWs for this series. Billy Bowden had a fairly poor match and the ICC should some teeth on the matter.

It was a fitting event for the 2,000th test match with full houses on all five days and some excellent cricket. England will delight in the proof of the depth of their batting. Since the second innings at Brisbane it has been the Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott show with excellent occasional support from Strauss, Pietersen and Ian Bell. Cook failed in both innings whilst Trott only scored well in the first.

Pietersen showed his class in the first innings with a superbly grafted double ton - those of you who follow this blog on twitter would have noted our calling for a double century - that showed an application that is so often lacking. It was a perfect scenario for Pietersen however, India at Lords is the biggest of occasions and with their flimsy attack shorn of its spearhead  it was really all set for him to make hay even with the seam friendly conditions.

One must hope that his cheap second innings dismissal was due to the inspiration of Ishant Sharma and not a sign that KP intends to dine out on this double ton for the remainder of the series. It is all there for Pietersen and he simply has to take it such is his talent. He remains the consummate entertainer.

Lower down the order, Prior has moulded himself into a formidable wicketkeeper/batsman. Ishant Sharma's wonderful spell had put England in a fair degree of trouble on day four but Prior, aided superbly by Stuart Broad put paid to any doubts by batting England into an unassailable position with a wonderful century. Prior also added 71 in the first innings and is averaging well into the 40s in tests.

England's seam attack was excellent with Broad, having been given the nod ahead of Bresnan heeding the advice about his length. He bowled aggressively but with pace and control. His pitching of the ball up allowed him some swing and seam. With this level of bowling and his excellent batting he could become a truly great cricketer.

Jimmy Anderson has morphed 360 degrees as a cricketer. Where he used to be surly and moody (Nasser Hussain described him as the most difficult player he had ever captained), he is now the go to man when things get tough. His ability to produce the goods on unhelpful pitches - there was little for the bowlers on day five - or on those which shouldn't suit him such as in Australia sets him apart as a true World class bowler.

For England the only doubt now comes in the balance of the team. Throughout the Ashes tour, England carried Collingwood offering little runs. England do not have a true all rounder and the selectors have to decide whether Eoin Morgan is a long term appointment. They do have the short term option, and it is an aggressive one of moving Prior to six and putting Broad at seven. That would allow them to add Bresnan or Finn to the team and it would be a truly formidable attack. Bresnan's swing in particular would have been tough to play against at Lords. England will surely stick with their current formula but should Morgan fail to spark, they could also move Bell back to six and introduce another middle order batsmen. Bell is a good number five but he is a sensational number six. There are things to chew on for England but they are nice selection issues to have.

For India as already mentioned little went right. Zaheer pulled up injured although there should be little surprise as he was only just coming back from an injury in the first place. Gambhir endured a painful one on the elbow and Sachin caught a viral infection meaning both batted lower down the order in the second innings.

On the plus side, Suresh Raina looks a good cricketer and in Praveen Kumar they look to have unearthed a genuine talent. His medium pace however may be shorn of its effectiveness should the conditions not swing later in the series. M.S. Dhoni proved his ability to do absolutely anything by passing the gloves to Dravid and bowling some handy medium pace in India's hour of need, he is truly a class individual and spoke little of bad luck in the post match interviews.

India looked a little undercooked in the first test and it is the way of modern tours now where teams arrive late for most series, indeed the cricket calendar offers little option. Their batting has undoubted class and should their attack find more teeth then they remain a tough proposition and they should certainly improve from this performance at Trent Bridge later this week.

This blog before the start of this series stated that it was India's bowling and not its batting that held the key to this series and we have seen little to dispute that theory. Their batting is a known quantity but whether they have the ability to take twenty England wickets in a match looks tenuous unless possibly they find a spin friendly pitch and Harbajhan is on form. It is first blood to England but there is much cricket to still be played - No Nonsense.