India v England: Lessons as Alastair Cook’s men square the series
India v England: Matt Cansick takes a look at the lessons learned as the tourists level the four-match series in fine style
Series tied at one a piece
England wasted little time in completing a morale-boosting win on Monday morning, taking less than an hour to claim the remaining three wickets. Monty Panesar took two of them to finish with second innings figures of 6-81, and match figures of 11-210, while Graeme Swann matched his four-wicket haul from the first innings. Between them, they took all but one of the 20 Indian wickets on offer, and with pitches in the remaining two Tests likely to be similar to this one, there will be plenty of opportunities to add to their respective tallies. Openers Alistair Cook and Nick Compton knocked of the 57 runs required with ease, Compton in particular going on the offensive in his 30 not out from just 28 balls. A positive and unbeaten innings will do his confidence the world of good, and he will be aiming to register at least his first fifty for England in the third Test. If England can win the toss in Kolkata, then he and Cook have a chance to maintain the momentum generated by this victory with a big opening partnership.
Right formula found
Much has been made of Panesar’s omission from the side for the first Test, particularly after this performance in Mumbai, and it is nailed on that both he and Swann will be leading England’s attack for the rest of the series. Question marks remain over Stuart Broad, and if he is not well enough to play in the third Test then Steven Finn will be the preferred choice. Finn has had fitness issues of his own, but there is time between now and the start of the next match on 5 December for him to prove that he is back in shape. Jonny Bairstow only managed nine in the first innings and did not bat in the second, so assuming Ian Bell returns in time, there is a decision to be made there. Bell has not looked in the best of form, but as the senior player he may represent a safer option to bolster the batting line-up. Fundamentally, the team looked far more balanced and suited to the conditions than in Ahmedabad, and England will be loathe to make any changes to a winning formula unless they are forced to do so.
More big performances required
Man-of-the-match Kevin Pietersen was at his destructive best in this match, and with Panesar tearing through the Indian batting, England had star performers with both bat and ball. Cook’s century and Swann’s eight wickets would normally have been stand-out, and this is equally encouraging for England. Cook now has four centuries in as many matches as captain, and he is consistently providing a solid platform for the middle order from which the likes of Pietersen can push on with more aggressive strokes. It is crucial that these key players continue to produce the goods on a regular basis, as any slip-ups are sure to be punished. This match very nearly got away from England after they had India on the ropes at 119-5, and a repeat of this may not turn out so well next time.