Only two weeks ago I was hopeful that England could pull off a series win in India, against all the odds. My faith was horrendously misplaced.
I can’t say that I’m surprised, as always it’s the hope that kills us as England fans. Maybe one day we’ll learn not to expect too much.
England lasted slightly longer than anyone anticipated on the fourth day, but India’s 8 wicket win in Mohali has given them an unassailable 2-0 series lead. Whilst it was India whom the questions were being asked of after the series opener, England now have it all to do if they’re to salvage a draw.
Don’t get me wrong, India are by no means unbeatable, but their form is looking more ominous by the session. I fear for us in the final two Tests.
But, what did we learn from the Mohali Test? Or, maybe something we already knew was just reaffirmed? I give my thoughts below.
HAMEED’S INJURY BLOW
It’s now been confirmed that England’s teenage sensation is out of the remainder of the tour, and the Lancashire youngster will return home to have his injuries assessed and dealt with accordingly. Hameed was one of the few England batsmen who the Indian’s actually ‘got out’ in the first innings, thanks to a near unplayable delivery from Yadav.
However, his second innings exploits- batting at 8 no less as a result of his finger injury- were exemplary. The way he applied himself at the crease highlighted where everyone before him, with the exception of Joe Root had failed. His 59* (156) was a masterclass to watch, and showed another side to his game when joined by Anderson for the last wicket, duly dismantling Shami, Ashwin and Jadeja. I can think of a couple of batsmen who could take a few tips off him.
ENGLAND CAN’T BLAME THE PITCH
The pitch debate has been well and truly put to bed. England lost, simply because they couldn’t apply themselves on that first morning. It’s even more frustrating when you remember Cook won the toss, making it that much sweeter for Virat Kohli. The pitch was competitive throughout for both bat and ball, and England’s miserable failure in the opening session left them chasing the game from then on.
8 wickets fell on all four days of the test, and if that doesn’t scream consistency, I don’t know what does. Very few of England’s wickets were earned by India, rather given away by the visitors for free. I’m all for our free-flowing, fear-free, positive style of cricket, but there is still value in respecting your wicket and not relying on others to do the work for you. England desperately need to cut out on the soft dismissals, and quickly.
BEN STOKES AND ADIL RASHID STAR ONCE AGAIN
Adil Rashid added to his already impressive wicket tally with another 5 wickets in the match, taking him to 18 for the series so far, head and shoulders above any other England bowler. His first innings efforts, 4-118, on a fairly even pitch with England up against it, show just how far he has progressed in such a short period of time. With Moeen Ali and Gareth Batty struggling to make anything happen, Rashid found a formula that worked and reaped the rewards. The skill shown in the googly to dismiss Rahane tells you all you need to know about England’s best spinner, and exactly why he needs more recognition for his hard work.
Ben Stokes once again proved how valuable he is to this England side, picking up 5-73 in the first innings. The Durham all-rounder saw a number of chances spurned off his bowling once again, but continued to graft and eventually got what he deserved. Whilst it wasn’t his best game with the bat, he still sits second in England’s leading run scorer’s list with 267 @ 53.40, only behind Joe Root (299 @ 49.83).
BAIRSTOW OR BUTTLER? HOW ABOUT BOTH?
There have been many debates about these two in the past. Who’s the better player? Who should be the keeper? Do they both deserve to be in the team? The short answer to that final question, in my opinion, is a definitive yes.
Jos Buttler came back into the team and did well, I thought. He looked good value for his 43 before a his tame dismissal to Jadeja, looking to be more positive. The same can be said for his second innings knock (18) where he was unlucky to pick out the man in the deep after a promising start. His run out of Nair in the Indian first innings was one of the few highlights for England. Maybe keepers really can field without those big gloves on their hands after all.
Jonny Bairstow shone once again and added another 104 runs (89, 15) to his tally in what has been a remarkable 2016. He’ll be disappointed not to have converted his first innings efforts into a century, but his composed knock showed his class and everything that the Yorkshire-man is all about. A further three catches behind the stumps also means he holds the record for the most dismissals in a calendar year.
CHANGES, CHANGES, CHANGES?
Hameed’s injury certainly gives the selectors a headache when it comes to finding Alastair Cook’s new opening partner. They could resort back to Ben Duckett at the top of the order, or source elsewhere from the Lions’ tour of the UAE and opt for yet another new opener. Keaton Jennings and Nick Gubbins are the obvious replacements after prolific seasons in the County Championship. The only problem with these three options though, is that they’re all left-handed, which plays into India’s hands.
On the other side, Virat Kohli must be delighted with India’s performance. Will we see him stick with the same XI for the first time ever? Parthiv Patel certainly didn’t do himself any harm in his comeback test, whilst Jayant Yadav proved his class again in only his second game with both bat and ball. Karun Nair can count himself unlucky after he was run-out by skipper Kohli, but Rahane could be in the firing line after another poor show.
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