England looked down and out following the hiding that India dished out in Ahmedebad. The batsmen failed, at least in the first innings, the bowlers, bar Graeme Swann, failed and the selectors failed. It had the distinct whiff of a second subcontinent shellacking of 2012 for the tourists.
The regrouping was swift and the results immediate. The ineffectual Tim Bresnan was dropped in favour of Monty Panesar and new father Ian Bell was replaced by Jonny Bairstow. Faith, no matter how misplaced, was shown to the other nine men of the Ahmedebad aberration.
England’s famous 10 wicket win has levelled the series at 1-1 with two to play. It was a courageous performance from England as everyone, myself included, expected them to implode and find themselves struggling to avoid the ignominy of a second whitewash this year.
Panesar was rampant, taking 11 wickets in the match. He ruthlessly highlighted the incompetence of his management in not selecting him for the first Test. He troubled all and sundry in a display of supreme skill and understanding of the conditions lacking in many of his teammates.
To see him and Swann bowling in tandem was a real treat. In previous games together England had never won. What a time to buck this statistical trend.
The only man to outshine Monty was a swashbuckling Kevin Pietersen. One assumes his reintegration is now complete as his 186 dominated the Indian bowling in the game’s stand out performance.
What joy for captain Alastair Cook to find a partner in which to amass a third wicket partnership of 206 that took the game from the hosts.
Cook’s own performance was, again, of the highest class. His 122 cancelled out the immovable talents of India’s number three Chetseshwar Pujara, who was beginning to represent a Limpet at the crease. That’s four centuries in four outings as captain for Cook now.
I would say more on KP but enough has been said. He is now surely undroppable and, one hopes, settled. There are few finer sights than him in his dismissive, arrogant, pomp. It was pure theatre. It was pure KP Genius…
So the series rolls into Kolkata for December 5. India have a formidable record at Eden Gardens. Four of the last five Tests have been won by the hosts, the most recent outings here have seen abject defeats for West Indies and South Africa.
In November 2011 WIndies were defeated by an innings and 15 runs. Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and MS Dhoni all scored centuries in an innings of 631/7d.
In February 2012 South Africa were defeated by an innings and 57 runs. Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and MS Dhoni all scored centuries in an innings of 643/6d.
This could be the ideal location for the Indian captain Dhoni to rediscover his best form. He loves batting here. He averages 181.50 here.
Pakistan were the last visitors to leave Kolkata with a win in February 1999. South Africa were the last non subcontinent nation to take victory in November 1996. Indeed, since England last won here in January 1977, only West Indies in 1983, South Africa and Pakistan have won here.
England’s last visit was in January 1993 when they lost by eight wickets. Then captain and now batting coach Graham Gooch scored 17 and 18 as England followed on. The main threat with the ball (really) was Graeme Hick with a match haul of 5/28.
What can we learn from this? Nothing.
England face another monumental challenge to avoid defeat. Former India captain Sourav Ganguly expects the cooler temperature to keep the pitch in tact for longer and he’s anticipating a high scoring encounter.
India’s recent history here is impressive. England will have to display the same determination and application as they did in Mumbai. There are also one or two questions still hanging over the selection of the side.
Should they alter the line up again? Will they need five bowlers instead of four? If Samit Patel isn’t bowling, is he the best man to bat at six? Do the selectors have enough flexibility to alter the side’s make up for a different challenge?
One win in Mumbai, no matter how impressive, does not complete the tour nor render it successful. The hard work starts now. My fear is that the faith will be misplaced in some individuals and consistency will be shown for the sake of consistency.
Following Mumbai, though, who knows…
By Miles Reucroft