It was inevitable wasn’t it
(before i start i must mention i won’t be commenting on the pitch or the umpiring as i don’t feel this is necessary for what i’m trying to promote here)
Well that was always bound to happen. I mean it is India in India with Ashwin after all. But of course i do have some thoughts on this game and as ever (or so i hope) they will be largely the positive ones. To begin with, credit to England for giving all new channel 4 viewers the true experience of being an England fan in the elation of last week and then the laugh because it’s better than crying of this week.
My Nana used to say that each cloud has a silver lining and this is the case for England. Even though this one is so dark and gloomy that Graham Gooch scored 154* underneath it, it is a big cloud and the bigger the cloud the bigger the silver lining. 4 days was all it took but i do believe that this was this England side at its absolute worst. The diagnosis of the first innings is commonly stated as simply Moeen Ali but i do believe there to be more symptoms we aren’t properly investigating. For starters Rohit Sharma batted beautifully and played a great innings in which his temperament and desire to go huge were so clear to see. Rahane also played magnificently. But as i said before this was the worst this England side can be and i truly believe that. No 50 partnerships, no backing each other up in either side's innings and just letting the game slip away from them. Though as i mentioned there is a positive in this web of negativity. This is a young England side who are developing as a unit and learning every time they play. So this would’ve been a real lesson in alien conditions and it sets them up perfectly to do what England does best, have their backs against the wall and truly fight. When you hit rock bottom the only way is up.
As each session went by and India batted for longer and longer one thing was a constant throughout, Ben Foakes ain’t half bad is he? Foakes was immaculate behind the stumps and even with the bat in the first dig (we won’t discuss the 2nd) Foakes played brilliantly and offered a sole resistance for England as he played through the V and trusted his defence. With the gloves Foakes starred and captured the eyes of everyone watching including Matt Prior who described him as making it look “annoyingly easy”. We’ve all seen the clips and watched them a 100 times, we've all read that not a single bye was given in Indias first innings and we all saw the catch off of a Root offie pitched outside leg, and I think the debate is settled on who England's best pure wicket keeper is (i mean he is arguably the best in the world). Foakes should face another type of challenge in the day night game with the ball swinging and if he performs well there with both bat and gloves it will be hard to drop him come the summer. So Foakes was another huge positive.
But the main positive for England this week was Jack Leach and Olly Stone. The nut bowled beautifully. Inevitably he tired nearer the end of the test but in spells which grew in both length and quality he showed England why he is their best spinner. He has Pujara on toast and has taken to these Indian pitches like a duck to water with him naturally finding the right pace to bowl at (for Leach this is around 85-87kmph) and genuinely bowling consistent wicket taking deliveries. There’s not a lot to say about Leach other than his bowling now definitely outweighs Dom Bess’ ability with the bat. Stone, who i am a huge fan of if you were somehow not aware, and he proved why. Of course Stone removing Shubman Gill tested every English fibre in my body but nonetheless it was a good ball- and a very poor leave. Stone gives England some optimism not just because he got through a test match but he bowled quick; very quick and very accurate. Stones control has given England another serious pace option to add to Mark Wood and Jofra Archer and their new rotation policy should see these 3 get a lot more overs under their belt. So it’s not all doom and gloom.
Well, right now it does feel like it is. I do have to include some negativity in here but i’ll attempt to keep it brief (remember brief is relative to how much i want to say which is a lot!) So as i said earlier that was awful, from day 2 onwards England were always losing that match and it went from worse to worse. Say what you want about the pitch and or the toss but England just weren’t good enough. In the first innings Moeen Ali was poor with the ball and so was Stuart Broad with neither helping sustain the pressure that their counterparts had built up at the other end. England also didn’t have their usual tenacity in the field with catches going down and quite a few courtesy of Ben Stokes who has had a working over by Ashwin. When I say this there is an obvious caveat, the pitch was spinning, Stokes is a left hander and Ashwin is the greatest off spinner in the world and one of the greatest ever; Stokes was bound to struggle. Stokes is a phenomenal player and especially recently has been amazing with the bat and i would expect him to work out a solid game against Ashwin come to the end of the series. But anyway, with the bat England were very poor getting out to cheap shots and not committing except for Dom Sibley (who looked very comfortable before he got the unluckiest dismissal of the game) and Ben Foakes (read above). The 2nd bowling innings was even worse with England just losing any momentum to a fantastic Ashwin and Kohli partnership, i will discuss the former later. Kohli looked marvellous in the 2nd dig and he still has a bit between his teeth and what better way to prove everyone wrong than a hundred in the day night game. England were abismall this week but as i said before this is a learning curve and i will judge them on how they bounce back and react.
My highlight of the game was Ashwin raising the bat for 3 figures. This was for a couple of reasons. Firstly Mohammad Siraj’s celebration was fantastic and made me chuckle when England were truly in the dirt as you would've thought he'd got the ton. Secondly a home boy raising his bat in front of his home crowd for a superb century yeah try tell me that didn't make you excited for fans back in the stadium. The noise was electric, the innings superb and it sometimes you have to sit back an applaud a truly wonderful player go about his business. The crowd did provide another moment of glory as Moeen bowled Kohli through the gate for a duck and
So changes are inevitable for the third game. Sadly Dan Lawrence will be dropped but he’s still only 23 and will have gained countless experience by playing these 2 games and I fully expect him to remain a part of the setup for years to come. Zak Crawley should come back into the side and it makes sense given he is the more competent of him and Bairstow at facing pace bowling. Moeen Ali is flying home and i fully support him in doing this as it is believed it was his choice (if you criticise him you’re not an England fan you’re a knob), so if the pitch is a bunsen expect Bess to play whilst if it’s a bit more seam i would expect Chris Woakes to come in. Jimmy comes straight back in but then the question lies down to Wood, Archer or Broad (given Stone is rested). I personally go with Jofra for that something extra but I wouldn't be surprised if given the conditions England go with Stuart Broad. This next game is crucial for England as they have an opportunity here to really compete and go toe to toe with the best side in the world.
So it was a bad week, but it was inevitable so let us roll with the punches, take the positives and move onto a 9am start time (thank God!).
Agree with my summary? Let me know on Twitter @therunoutblog1