They say winning is contagious, but being unable to win can have the same undesired effect. This England team didn’t become a bad side overnight but a run of defeats, combined with some high-profile retirements, meant this team got into a habit of losing, and a lot of their young players didn’t know how to get out out of it. The positive for England over these five days has been the performance of the senior members of this team, who let’s not forget have vast experience of winning from Ashes series to beating India home and away, and getting to number one in the Test rankings. It began with Alastair Cook and Ian Bell, two players painfully short of runs, coming out and reminding the England faithful why they are considered two of their country’s best ever. It was then followed up by James Anderson and Stuart Broad, two bowlers with over 600 Test wickets between but were unable to shake the habit of short pitched bowling. Something clicked and they bossed India’s batsmen from start to finish, though with Anderson’s impending court hearing, there could be another twist in the tail.
A lot has been said about Moeen Ali and his ‘part-time’ spin, and if you had asked the man himself, there is no doubt he would hate the comparisons to Graeme Swann – but that is the yardstick for spin in England right now. Ali, though, has repaid the new faith from his skipper by taking a five wicket haul – his first – in the fourth innings of a Test match, the way good spinners should do. The Worcestershire man bowled with guile and accuracy, tempting the batsmen in to false strokes and beating the bat on both sides with regularity. Of course he isn’t in the same league as Swann, but neither was he after making the Test squad in 1999 before being cast aside until his eventual debut in 2008. If Moeen continues to improve at the rate he is – and of course it is a very big if- he could become an important fixture in this new look England team and given the fact he is a top-order batsman, he creates a brilliant balance for the selectors.
It is easy to get carried away with this England performance but there are still some issues to be looked at with two matches left in this series. Sam Robson, who started the summer with a maiden hundred, but seems to have a weakness in the corridor outside off stump which has caused a number of almost identical dismissals in this series. Admittedly, he got a beauty of a delivery from Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the second innings but he was still caught in the arc. Chris Jordan has different problems. The Sussex paceman is short of form and out of rhythm and needs to get back to Hove and get some overs under his belt. He performed in the field but was unable to support the other three bowlers sufficiently. Jordan’s namesake Chris Woakes will leave Southampton wondering what he had to do to take a wicket in this match. He bowled consistently well throughout, beating the bat and keeping a good line and length to always ask questions of the Indian batsman. Woakes perhaps deserves another chance but it would be very surprising if Liam Plunkett does not return for Old Trafford.
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BIOGRAPHY: Mohamed Salah