I am disappointed only in the continuing blind spot re BenFoakes – Jonny Bairstow should not be in a test squad at the moment. I am glad that Moeen Ali did not get recalled – I would have regarded such a move as absolutely shocking, rating him as a spinner to be behind not just Leachand Parkinson, but also offspinners Bessand Virdiplus (inexperience notwithstanding) slow left-armer Liam Patterson-White, without venturing on to controversial territory such as selecting women in men’s squads (see various of my earlier posts, especially this one,for more detail on this if you wish).
Given that Mark Wood is still not fully fit, I do not consider it likely that a South Africam pitch will warrant two specialist spinners, and I prize variety in my bowling attacks my team for the first test would be: Burns, Sibley, Denly, Root, Stokes, Pope, +Buttler, Curran, Archer,*Leach (I have not given up even temporarily on all of my controversial notions!), Anderson. I would like to see Wood and Archer both in the same team later in the series, and would not at this stage of their careers pick Broad and Anderson together. Later in the series when Wood is fully fit I might consider gambling by dropping Buttler, handing the gloves to Pope and having Curran bat at seven followed by Archer, Leach, Wood and Anderson (or Broad if Anderson is not fit), or in the unlikely event of a surface in that part of the world justifying two specialist spinners in the team, Curran, Archer, Leach, Wood, Parkinson forming nos 7-11. The idea behind these later series selections is that Archer and Wood would both be used in short, fiery bursts, with the others plus contributions from Stokes doing the bulk of the bowling work.
This is a decent selection by England, and as South Africa are in disarray at present I expect England to collect the D’Oliveira Trophy at the end of the series.
Final thoughts on the just concluded England v India test series.
Jimmy Anderson just a few minutes ago rattled the stumps of Mohammad Shami to finish the England versus India series and simulataneously move ahead of Glenn McGrath and test wicket taking list to become the all time leading wicket taker among seamers. He still possibly has enough juice left to get past wrist spinner Anil Kumble (619) into third place overall but I suspect that the tallies of Warne (708) and Muralitharan (800) are too far distant for him. In the rest of this post I will summarise the series from my perspective.
MATCH BY MATCH THROUGH THE SERIES
Englandcame into this series off the back of a poor recent run in test matches (obliterated in Australia, a clear second best in New Zealand and an unconvincing drawn home series against Pakistan) but a lot of success in ODIs, which national selector Ed Smith decided to channel by means of the selections of Buttler and Rashid. India mean time were ranked no 1, a good margin clear of the rest.
MATCH 1: EDGBASTON
England led by 13 runs on first innings, which looked like meaning precisely nothing when they then began their second innings by slumping to 87-7. However, for the first but not last time in the series, India proved unable to complete the job, baulked on this occasion by Sam Curran’s first major contribution, and England eventually left India 194 to chase, which proved to be more than they could handle.
MATCH 2: LORD’S
From the moment India were all out for 107 in their first innings the fate of this match was pretty much settled. At 130-5 England were making heavy weather of their response but a maiden test century from Chris Woakes and 96 from Jonny Bairstow put the game well and truly out of India’s reach and in the event they collapsed a second time to lose by an innings and 159 runs.
MATCH 3: TRENT BRIDGE
This match was settled in the space of an hour and a half on the second day, when England facing an Indian first innings of 329 slumped from 54-0 to 128-9. Even then the last apir cobbled together 33 to reduce the deficit, but the damage had been done, and India ran out comfortable and deserving winners
MATCH 4: THE AGEAS BOWL
When England were 86-6 after winning the toss and batting it looked like the final match would be a decider. However, with Sam Curran playing a second fine innings to rescue a dreadful start England reached 246. India took a small first innings lead, but England batted better second time around and India never threatened to get close in the fourth innings. England had sealed the series with a match to spare.
MATCH 5: THE OVAL
England were playing for pride and a bit of history in this match. After Jennings had fallen cheaply to the surprise of precisely no one who had been following the series Cook and Moeen Ali looked to have stabilised things, but then a clatter of wickets reduced England to 181-7. Buttler and Rashid made it through the the close at 198-7. When Rashid was dismissed early on the second day to make it 214-8 India seemed to be in the box seat. Then in what had become a recurring theme of the series India failed to finish what they had started. Kohli, one the three best batters currently eligible for test cricket (alongside Root and Kane Williamson of New Zealand), is also one of its worst ever captains, and here he was concentrating so much on trying to prevent Buttler from getting the strike that he seemed to forget about taking wickets with the result that England’s total mushroomed to 332. India in their own first innings staged a late order revival to reduce what had looke like being a three figure deficit to a mere 40. After Jennings had gone cheaply and Moeen Ali had also not done very much Cook in his final test innings and Root joined forces. This was the partnership that placed England’s boot firmly on India’s throat, as both completed hundreds, Cook in the process becoming test cricket’s all time most prolific left hander. Both lost their wickets in successive balls, and then after a bit of bat throwing by those lower in the order England declared setting India 464 to win.
Anderson took two wickets with the new ball to draw level with McGrath, while Kohli managed to complete his series without once falling to Anderson (by instead being done first ball by Stuart Broad), at which point India were 2-3 and the 4-1 outcome looked nailed on. A thunderous partnership on the final day between Lokesh Rahul and Rishabh Pant who both made centuries (Pant’s, his first in test cricket, could almost be described as a Gilchristian effort) but England broke through, and although for a long time it looked like India might escape with a draw the prospect of defeat never really loomed. Sam Curran took the eighth and ninth wickets with the second new ball (the latter of them being Jadeja, leaving nos 10 and 11, both out and out rabbits – indeed Bumrah at no 11 may even merit the term ferret). Bumrah managed to survive the last two balls of a Curran over, which meant that Anderson had a full over at two out and out tailenders in which to make history. With the third ball of said over Anderson did the trick as mentioned in the introduction.
Curran, who by taking his late wickets here had become only the second person to record 250 runs and 10 wickets in a test series before reaching the age of 21 (the other was chap by the name of Kapil Dev who may be familiar to some of you!) was rewarded for his all-round endeavours by being named England player of the series, while scores of 71 and 147 in his international swansong saw Cook named player of the match.
This was a truly extraordinary match, leaving me to ask a question: William Shakespeare did you secretly emerge from the grave to script this?!
4-1 – FAIR OR HARSH ON INDIA?
I have written about this before (see here), but I am now going to dot the is and cross the ts. Yes, as well as their big win at Trent Bridge India had good chances in three of the other matches, including the one just concluded, but the simple fact is that far too often they could press home the advantage when they had it, and every time they had an opportunity to close out a match England did so. Therefore, I say that 4-1 is a fair reflection of the series. However, not all in the England garden is rosy – the departure of Cook and the repeated failures of Jennings mean that England need a new opening pair, and have seven test matches before the arrival in town of the oldest enemy, the Aussies, for that pair to establish themselves. Also, given the reluctance of Root to bat there and the fact that Ali while adequate seems to morph into a darker skinned version of Chris Tavare when he bats there England also have problems filling the number three slot. This uncertainty at the top has been reflected in a series of poor starts to the England innings, most of which, save at Trent Bridge, were turned around by the middle and lower orders into something at least respectable.
A few from James and Sons collector’s auction on September 26, which is now ready for viewing online.