England’s ill-advised ODI series comes to an end tomorrow in Calcutta with England looking to avoid a 5-0 whitewash. On form, the match is more likely to be rained off than England are to win. What we’ve learnt from the series so far is that England’s ODI bowlers still struggle to take wickets on slower surfaces. They’ve not done a bad job of keeping things tight early on (though it’s not been anything about which to write home either), but India have had wickets in hand and been able to put up big runs in the late overs. We’ve also learnt that England’s ODI batsmen still struggle on slow surfaces against spin. The normally sharp fielding has also been dreadful this series, meaning that England have bowled poorly, batted poorly and fielded poorly. It’s pretty much exactly what India did in England over the summer and we are seeing the same results. The sooner England can get it over with the better.
I don’t think it forecasts any extra difficulty in the Test series next year, however. England’s ODI side have always been a mercurial (or just an outright shambles) even when the Test side has done well. (Example: The post Ashes ODI series.) Including the current one, the last three tours of India have seen England win one out of fifteen completed matches. In the five accompanying Test matches, however, England have performed rather creditably. They drew the 2006 series 1-1 and had the better of the drawn match. They lost 0-1 in 2008, but the loss was that famous Chennai test in which England played quite well. It should also be remembered that those two sides were hardly world beaters. In 2006 they had come off a 0-2 loss in Pakistan and would go on to draw Sri Lanka 1-1 at home. In 2008 they had come off a 1-2 home loss to South Africa and would go on to be bowled out for 51 by the West Indies. In both cases, their Test performance was better in India than in the preceding or subsequent series despite losing badly in the ODIs. It’s impossible to know in what condition the Test side will be in a year’s time, but right now I’d back England to win the Test series in India.