England win by seven wickets

The victory for England in Calcutta was ultimately not as crushing as perhaps England would have hoped. But it was very comfortable and a well deserved win for the side which played the better cricket almost from the word go. It means that England retain the Pataudi Trophy and can look to secure the series next week in Nagpur.

England simply outplayed India in this Test and for the second time in succession did so after India had been given most of the early advantages. Having twice failed now to win the match after winning an important toss India must be very concerned about what might transpire if they were to actually lose the toss in Nagpur. But the excellence of England over the last four-and-a-bit days should not imply that there is nothing on which England need to work in the next couple of days. It almost seems harsh to say after scoring 523 in the first innings and not missing an innings win by much that the batting should have done better, but it is accurate. Of that 523, 190 came from Alastair Cook and another 87 came from Jonathan Trott. This was not the raging turner of Mumbai where just getting in was an achievement, it barely turned at all before the fourth day and a lot of the other batsmen should have scored more. Five hundred and twenty-three is a good score and 207 was a good lead, but it might have been very different had Cook been caught on 17 instead of dropped. England’s last eight partnerships added only 185 between them. There is also the mini-collapse on the last day to sound a bit of a warning.

Alastair Cook was deservedly Man of the Match, but I think the real standout performers for England were the bowlers and James Anderson in particular. Anderson has worked hard all series and before now had only a couple of wickets and a good economy rate to his credit. But he finally had a bit of help this time and turned that into six wickets in the match and the best analysis on either side. The attack as a whole had only the first hour of the first day and the first session of the fourth day in which they really struggled. For the rest of the match they exerted consistent pressure and India completely caved to it in the afternoon session of the fourth day. Anderson was the standout performer, but all the bowlers were effective and all of them took wickets at various points. There is little more that can be asked of them and I think England will be quite happy with the same or a similar show in Nagpur.

A slight worry for England might be how many of India’s wounds were self-inflicted, however. England bowled well and applied pressure, but once that pressure started to tell India’s batsmen stopped even trying to resist. The only one who bothered to show up in the second innings was Ravichandran Ashwin and he was far too late to do anything but save a bit of face on the penultimate day. If he had not batted so well India would have lost by an innings. But if a couple of members of the top order had applied themselves in the manner that he did India might have won. Far too many of India’s wickets fell because the batsman was either lazy or careless. India should not even take too much out of that batting performance from Ashwin because it was from a man who had already failed badly at his prime task: bowling. Ashwin took 3-183 in the first innings, but all two of them were Anderson and Monty Panesar. The other one was a gift from Kevin Pietersen.

But far worse than anything India did with the bat was their fielding. This was probably the biggest difference between the sides; England started off with a run out of Sehwag after a good stop on the boundary by their most unathletic fielder. Most of India’s fielders were happy to wave the ball through to the rope and the rest were not sure how to use their hands. They had one really sharp work from Virat Kohli to run out Cook, but even in that case he was very fortunate that Cook did not get his bat down and it still came after the England captain had twice been dropped. England ran threes with impunity all match and Cook and Compton in particular stole quick singles to most of the fielders. Even well before the end, Zaheer Khan had stopped even bothering to move before the ball was bowled and Ishant Sharma had no interest whatsoever in cutting off balls in the outfield. England were far from perfect, but not only were they much better they never simply gave up like India did.

India’s mentality as a side in this Test was poor. We have seen it before, but once again they seemed to have no fight when it mattered. By the time they decided to try to do something it was far, far too late. That said, however, I think the talk of radical changes is a bit premature. There is no way this will be a good series for India and they will need to have a look at themselves when it is over. But it isn’t over yet and there are a hundred little things that could go against England in the next Test to allow India to level the series. It looks unlikely, but it looked unlikely that England would make such a turnaround after Ahmedabad and it cannot be assumed that India will continue to play so poorly. That the series is still in the balance should be a source of some irritation to England; if they had batted even vaguely competently in Ahmedabad they would be 2-0 up now and could relax. As it is they have to maintain their intensity and continue to play well on what will likely be a result pitch at Nagpur. They can win and I think they should, but it is too early to start looking at where India went wrong.

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