Wednesday, August 3, 2011

England Versus India, the scorecard so far.

Two nil up and seemingly cruising, things are looking extremely rosey for England and their immediate target of becoming the World's number one test side. Indeed, should England secure victory at Edgbaston next week they will achieve that feat with the Oval test remaining. England will start as strong favourites given the events at Lords and Trent Bridge but it may well be the case that the gap between the sides is not quite as large as the results suggest. What is clear however is that India have to show far greater application and desire should they wish to turn this series around.

India enjoyed the best of the bowling conditions on the first day and had England at 88/6 for and then 124/8 before letting England off the hook as Swann and the excellent Broad launched a counter attack. India still managed to secure a 67 run lead which on the Nottingham surface looked a priceless one, indeed had it not been for an inspired period of bowling from Broad that included a hat trick, India may have already had a match winning lead. What transpired during day three however was symptomatic of the series so far as India capitulated in the face of some dogged England batting, the depth of which currently is hugely impressive. Within a day, India had gone from a position where they should have won the game to one where they could only try to avoid defeat.

India have suffered for not taking sufficient cover for the injured Sehwag and with Zaheer injured and Harbajhan rendered ineffective so far on the prepared pitches the bowling has toiled with the seamers having to put down a huge amount of overs. There is undoubted talent but the body language in the field belies a team that looks tired and wants to be somewhere else warmer and with better food.

For the Indian players, the riches and adulation that come with their position have come at a cost. The World Cup, the IPL and a series in the Caribbean have all come prior to their arrival in England. Typical English weather coupled with typical English pictures are not usually to the liking of sub continent tourists and this is proving the case again. The likes of Yuvraj are unquestionably players of huge talent but against a seaming ball and sharp bounce, their batsmen look uncomfortable despite the undisputed class always shown by Sachin, Dravid and VVS. It may also be the reality nowadays that with the riches of the IPL and the recent crowning as World champions that test cricket is not the priority anymore as sad as that would be to admit.

Superficially for England there seems little to be concerned about. Runs are flowing and the attack is firing on all cylinders. The openers are not firing however and whilst Cook can be allowed a lean spell after his previous heroics, Strauss is becoming in genuine need of some runs and a big score at Edgbaston would be most welcome. Trott, Pietersen and Bell appear solid but Morgan's place must be questioned as despite his runs in the second innings he like Yuvraj looks shaky against quality seam bowling. His runs came easily on Sunday against the old ball but he was out quickly once the new ball arrived. With Broad, Bresnan and Prior in such good form with the bat it could be argued to drop him to allow the return of Tremlett. An alternative long term solution at six may have to be found however.

The other option to accommodate Tremlett without losing any of the excellent Bresnan, Broad or Anderson would be to give Swann a rest at Edgbaston should the conditions be seam friendly again. He has done little to trouble the Indian batsman so far and a break before returning for the Oval where spin has so often played a large part may not be the worst option for England.

England have their tails up and quite rightly so but it would be folly to think that a team as talented as India is already beaten. The Indian dressing room abounds with leaders such as Dhoni the captain, Sachin, Dravid, Sehwag and Zaheer and from that perspective it must be difficult for Duncan Fletcher to exert much influence over such players that require little coaching. To pick them up for the third test however, the Zimbabwean must find a way to do so or their number one test status is in extreme peril - No Nonsense.