Lord’s, day one: England 160-4

The Test summer has finally started! New Zealand are probably on top after a very interesting day of cricket. Neither side really dominated and the day was primarily one of attrition; New Zealand were not overly threatening for most of it, but it was very hard for England to score runs and New Zealand took wickets at important moments twice.

England’s slow scoring (exactly two an over) did prompt some criticism, but there was very little that they could do given the conditions. The pitch was flat, but on the slow side and the outfield was very slow making scoring difficult. New Zealand bowled well for the most part; they were only directly threatening for about an hour after lunch, but they were seldom wayward and generally put the batsmen under pressure. The ball swung for the first half of the day and England had to focus on seeing off the worst of the conditions; they could not try to increase the scoring rate without taking undue risks. Scoring at three an over was simply not feasible today and given that fact, England’s approach was very good. They worked hard to keep wickets in hand and to try to set themselves up for the rest of the Test. The conditions were actually not dissimilar to those England encountered on the first day in Dunedin a few months ago; there England did not reign themselves in and their subsequent collapse almost cost them the Test. They showed today that they learnt from that and have given themselves a chance to put up a decent score tomorrow.

The crucial moment of the day was when Jonathan Trott was out just before tea. It was a wicket against the run of play; England had done very well to get through a difficult period after lunch with only two wickets gone and Trott and Ian Bell were settling in and starting to score runs more freely. But an excellent delivery from Trent Boult forced Trott to play before taking the edge which was very well caught by a diving third slip. This forced England back onto the defensive with the new batsman coming in just before the tea interval and they then had to spend the better part of another hour consolidating again. Without that wicket, England would have had a chance to start dominating proceedings in the evening session and would have likely been on top at stumps and possibly in a very strong position.

The wicket of Ian Bell was also an important one, but unlike Trott it was a gift to New Zealand. Bell had worked very hard after coming in just after lunch in difficult conditions and by what would prove to be the penultimate over before stumps (actually the 79th in the day) he had ground out 31 off 133 deliveries. But he lost his patience and hung his bat rather tamely at a ball well wide of off stump. There was no need at all to play at it and it turned the game from being slightly in England’s favour to being more strongly in New Zealand’s favour. It was easily the most frustrating moment of the day as Bell threw away a session and a half of very good work.

Tomorrow should also be an interesting day. The second new ball will be due immediately and England have a new batsman at the crease in Jonny Bairstow. England also have two very inexperienced batsmen at the crease, though Joe Root has been in excellent form for Yorkshire and the Lions so far. They will need to consolidate more in the morning and must stick together and put on a decent partnership. Matt Prior is the next man in and if he can come to with wicket with England in a decent position then he can start to transfer the pressure over to New Zealand. It is hard to know how Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad will fare, but they will attack as well and it is important that England are in a position of comfort when they do so. The pitch itself looks like one on which a decent score is possible, but the overhead conditions may yet turn the match into a low scoring affair so it is hard to say what sort of score England need to be competitive. It is highly unlikely that anything under 325 will do, however, and that is still some way off.

New Zealand 0-0 England player marks

England barely managed to avoid a series defeat in New Zealand for the first time in 29 years by clinging on to a draw in the last Test. Whilst it was not a good result for England, it was a good series with New Zealand making a mockery of their number eight ranking. One of the notable aspects of the series was that New Zealand named an unchanged side in all three Tests and England were only prevented from doing the same by an injury to Kevin Pietersen. My full series review has already gone up and my marks out of ten for the 23 players to contest the series are as follows:

New Zealand
Hamish Rutherford – 6
Rutherford started the series and his career with a brilliant knock of 171 that put New Zealand in charge of the Dunedin Test. After that, however, he was restricted to just 75 runs in his next four innings. He has still made sure that New Zealand have a coherent opening partnership for the near future.

Peter Fulton – 7
Fulton had a broadly similar series as Rutherford, but in reverse. he scraped by with the bat at the start of the series before scoring a pair of centuries in the last Test, the second coming with New Zealand having been reduced to 8-3. It was certainly a successful return to the side overall.

Kane Williamson – 5
It was a consistently decent series for Williamson, but little more. In five innings he made four scores over twenty and just one over sixty (and none over one hundred). His unbeaten 55 at the Basin Reserve was instrumental in New Zealand saving that Test and he formed a good partnership with Fulton on the first day at Eden Park, but he never played a really decisive innings. He did, despite some questions about his action, finish at the top of the series bowling averages with six wickets for ninety runs.

Ross Taylor – 2
After playing very well in 2012, Taylor struggled badly on his return to the side after the captaincy fallout. The 41* he made batting for the rain at Wellington was important, but his other four innings were quite poor.

Dean Brownlie – 3
Brownlie only got three innings in the series and although he did not have any truly low scores he never made more than 36. He always looked vaguely out of his depth and not quite ‘in’. His dismissal was part of a larger collapse all three times.

Brendan McCullum* – 9
It was a very good series for McCullum, his second as captain, the only thing lacking was a win. With the bat he came to his team’s rescue twice, either stopping or slowing down a collapse and then he took England’s bowling apart on the penultimate day of the series. He showed good attacking intent with his field settings and was comfortably the best captain of the two. He might rue not enforcing the follow-on in the last Test, however.

BJ Watling† – 4
It was not a terrible series for Watling, he did everything asked of him behind the stumps and occasionally made some useful runs down the order. His best innings came at Wellington where he made 60 as New Zealand very nearly saved the follow-on. He did not have a standout series either, however.

Tim Southee – 3
Although he was coming off a very good winter, Southee struggled in this series, taking only six wickets in the three Tests at a cost of over fifty apiece. Five of those six wickets came in the last Test, the only time he looked at all threatening.

Bruce Martin – 4
Martin was rather fortunate to take four wickets in the first innings of the series as England were very charitable. He bowled better in the rest of the series, but his returns actually dropped off and the fact that he took no wickets in the last Test was costly.

Neil Wagner – 7
Wagner was the surprise of the series for New Zealand. He was not even supposed to play, but got a chance after Doug Bracewell cut his foot before the first Test. Wagner responded with 4-42 in the first innings of the series and finished the series as the leading wicket taker on both sides with twelve.

Trent Boult – 8
Although Wagner was the surprise of the series, Boult probably made the biggest impact. He took eleven wickets at less than thirty, but six of those were in the first innings at Eden Park where he swung the ball both ways and was the main reason England were bowled out for only 204.

Alastair Cook* – 3
It was a disappointing series for the England captain. Not only was a 0-0 far from the desired result, he left a lot to be desired with his handling of the team and his form suffered, at least by his lofty standards. He did play an excellent hundred to help ensure a draw at Dunedin, but his other four innings yielded just 74 runs.

Nick Compton – 7
Compton came into the series with questions, albeit rather ridiculous ones, over his place in the side and he got off to a dreadful start with a four-ball duck. But he followed that up with excellent back-to-back centuries and has secured his place for the first Ashes Test.

Jonathan Trott – 8
Trott was one of the few England batsmen to have a very good series in New Zealand. He tried to hold the innings together in Dunedin as he top-scored with 45, before scoring 52 and 121 in his next two innings. He fell off a bit in the third Test, wasting a review in the first innings and throwing his wicket away in the second. Some of his critics might also be surprised to note that he finished the series with the best strike rate of any member of England’s top six. Surprisingly, he also topped England’s bowling averages with one wicket for 27.

Kevin Pietersen – 3
It was a lacklustre series for Pietersen. He was troubled by a knee injury throughout and was forced to miss the last Test. He only managed 85 runs in three innings in the first two, though the 73 he made in Wellington was one of his better innings.

Ian Bell – 4
On paper it was not a great series for Bell; he managed only 158 runs at an average of 38. He was definitely short of his best overall, but those figures do not do justice to the effort he put in to help England save the Test and the series at Auckland. He scored ‘only’ 75 runs, but off a mammoth 271 deliveries before finally succumbing to a loose shot on the stroke of tea.

Joe Root – 2
Root was built up by the media before the series and so was probably always going to fall short in some way. But 88 runs in five innings was much more dramatic than anyone would have expected. Not only is he not about to replace Compton at the top of the order, his own place at six is not secure.

Matt Prior† – 10
England could not possibly have asked any more from Prior than what he delivered. He went past fifty three times in five innings, including his match saving 110* at Auckland. He also made sure that England got a decent score after wobbling in Wellington and throughout the series did his usual sterling job with the gloves.

Stuart Broad – 7
After a very poor and injury-hampered series in India, Broad came back very well in this series with eleven wickets, the best by an England bowler, including 6-51 as England made New Zealand follow-on in Wellington. After looking miserable with the bat for his first three innings, he also played a stunning innings of six off 77 deliveries as England barely hung on in Auckland.

Steven Finn – 5
Finn struggled through much of the series as he appeared to have trouble adjusting to his new run up and was noticeably down on pace. He finally managed to find a troubling length in Auckland and took six wickets in the first innings as England tried to keep New Zealand to a reasonable score. His main contribution was actually with the bat as he scored a fifty as nightwatchman in the first Test.

James Anderson – 4
Especially by Anderson’s lofty standards, this was a poor series. He struggled to get the ball to consistently swing and like most of the seamers bowled consistently too short. He still ended up with ten wickets, but in generally uninspiring fashion.

Monty Panesar – 3
Panesar only played in this series because Swann was ruled out at the last second with his chronic elbow injury. He will be remembered in this series for his contribution with the bat. He and Prior saw out the last few overs in Auckland and his struggle to make his ground after a tight single may be the iconic image of that Test. It should not disguise the fact that he did next to nothing with the ball, however, and may find himself down the pecking order come the summer.

Jonny Bairstow – 0
Bairstow may be the most unfortunate man on the tour. He came into the last Test as Pietersen’s replacement having not played in the only warmup and thus having not played any first-class cricket since being in the same situation in the second Test in India. He can hardly be faulted for making only nine runs in two innings.

Wellington, day one: England 267-2

The first day of this Test was almost as good for England as the first day (of play, not the one where it rained) at Dunedin was bad. England will be grateful to Brendan McCullum for either not having the faith in his own lineup to bat first or for badly misreading the pitch, but either way he decided to bowl first upon winning the toss. After ninety overs on a pitch with little side-to-side movement and not as much pace as had been expected, that decision looks like the wrong one and very possibly a disastrously wrong one.

It has actually been an odd couple of days for McCullum. He said yesterday that he would bowl first if he won the toss and was apparently sincere in that statement. He also paid a compliment to Alastair Cook which was subsequently blown well out of proportion. He said that in his current form, Cook was probably the best batsman since Don Bradman. This was, inexplicably, taken as comparing Cook with Bradman despite very clearly saying that Cook is not as good as Bradman. Also overlooked was the important caveat of current form. And Cook’s form coming into the Test was four centuries in five Tests, certainly worthy of comparison to any batsman of the recent era. McCullum was certainly not helped by the press, but the fact so few bothered to actually see what he said blew what should have been an uncontroversial compliment out of proportion.

In the long run, however, it will be his decision to bowl first that causes him the most regret. His bowlers had not had a lot of time to recuperate from bowling for nearly two days at Dunedin and they were faced with another tough task here. Although Cook played a loose shot to depart fairly cheaply, neither Jonathan Trott or Nick Compton were in a mood to oblige. Both played very patiently, did not try to force the tempo and made sure that England got a good platform set. They actually did not get particularly bogged down either, despite their reputations. England’s run rate was well above three an over when Compton departed and by then the two had put on over two hundred together.

The Barmy Army started singing that England were halfway there when the 250 came up near the end of the day, but England should actually be aiming well over five hundred. From this platform and with the batsmen not only still in but still to come, 550 is certainly possible and perhaps even six hundred. The biggest issue is time. Run rate is not normally a major issue in the first innings of a Test match, but there is rain strongly forecast for the fourth and fifth days and it looks like a guarantee that the match will be shortened. England will have to put New Zealand in at some point tomorrow; if Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Joe Root and Matt Prior can score as quickly as they usually do then England will have time to put on three hundred before declaring very late in the day, but there is a chance that the attempt will result in a collapse and a sub-500 score. It is probably a chance England have to take, however.

It is certainly too early to suggest that New Zealand cannot win this Test, but they are in a position where they will probably have to play for a draw and hope for an opportunity to turn that into a win. But their bowlers have been disappointingly toothless after performing well recently and in the first innings of the series. They have had circumstances turn against them, but in the last 260 overs England have scored 688 runs for the loss of eight wickets. New Zealand are going to have to find something more than what they have been showing if they still want to pull off an upset.

It still isn’t Trott’s fault

New Zealand won the opening ODI by three wickets last night after England batted first and failed to put up a big score after being in a good position. As usual a lot of the blame for this has fallen on Jonathan Trott who is considered to have scored his runs too slowly. The contention is that by scoring slowly he puts too much pressure on the lower order to score more quickly and get the total up and that this time it cost England.

Trott scored 68 off ninety deliveries though, hardly glacial and was in fact England’s top-scorer. He is in the side to lay a platform for the explosive hitters in the tail and he did exactly that. The problem was not Trott, but that the lower order got out instead of getting quick runs. There’s no reason to think they were under undue pressure after Trott’s innings; Jos Buttler, for instance, has a List A strike rate of 120. He is going to score quickly regardless of the situation and the same is largely true of Eoin Morgan. Their role in the side is to accelerate late in the innings; this should not be a surprising or pressure situation for them. In fact one would not expect them to score quickly for 25-30 overs as they would have to if they came in without a platform. They would either get out or have to slow down. But England’s current tactics mean that they do not need to; they can play freely and score quickly for about ten overs after Trott, Bell and Cook have done their job. The reason England lost is because Morgan et al failed, not because Trott batted too well.

This is borne out by looking at England’s results over the past year and a half. England brought in this tactic about the time that Cook became ODI captain and what the people who blame Trott for England’s losses tend to forget is that England have actually been very successful in ODIs since then. Since the start of England’s home summer in 2011, England have had results in 35 ODIs. In the 28 in which Trott has played, England have 18 wins, nine losses and a tie. In the other seven England have won only three and lost four. The tactic of letting Trott lay a platform has been demonstrated to be a success; it is not why England lost the most recent ODI.

England 2012 marks out of ten

Twenty-one different players represented England over fifteen Tests this calendar year. There were, as one can imagine, varying degrees of success and I have given them my year-end marks out of ten here:

Andrew Strauss – 4
The year leading up to Strauss’ resignation and retirement was, as one would expect, not the best for him. He did score a couple of battling fifties in the subcontinent and a pair of centuries to start the summer, but two defeats in four series led to him stepping down.

Alastair Cook – 8
Cook was England’s leading run scorer in 2012 and finished the year by captaining the side to a historic 2-1 series win in India and setting a new English record for most career centuries. He also just barely missed out on finishing the year with a career average above fifty.

Nick Compton – 7
After an incredible season with Somerset, Compton got a chance to open the batting for England in India. He did not quite grab his chance with both hands, but he did play quite solidly throughout and should open again in New Zealand.

Jonathan Trott – 5
It was only an okay year for Trott; he never really played poorly and had a very good innings in Galle. But at the same time he seldom seemed to really click, at least until the excellent 143 he made to help secure a draw in Nagpur.

Kevin Pietersen – 7
On the field it was a great year for Pietersen as he made three excellent centuries, but it was rather more rocky off the field. He came around though and then played the best crafted innings of his career to help put England in a winning position in Calcutta.

Ian Bell – 4
It was a sub-par year for Bell; Saeed Ajmal ran rings around him in the UAE and although Bell batted well after that (he scored six fifties) his mind never quite seemed settled until the last match of the year.

Eoin Morgan – 0
Morgan started the year with a terrible tour of the UAE, scoring only 82 runs in six innings. This wasn’t massively worse than the rest of the team, but coming from a player whose big strength was supposed to be spin bowling it cost him his place in the side. With the number of better options England now have, he should not appear on this list in twelve months’ time.

Jonny Bairstow – 4
Bairstow had a tough start to his career as he was worked over by the West Indies quicks then dropped for the start of the South Africa series. Finally recalled for the Lord’s Test, he made a pair of excellent fifties that helped give England a sniff of victory. He then only got one Test in India and may have fallen behind Joe Root in England’s pecking order.

Ravi Bopara – 0
The reasons why Ravi Bopara should not only not be picked again, but should not have been picked in the first place are fairly well documented here. Suffice to say he did nothing to disprove any of that and seems to have finally fallen completely out of the England picture.

James Taylor – 5
It’s very hard to say anything about James Taylor. He played only two Tests and batted fairly well, being run out by Prior in his last innings. He was then inexplicably left out of the side to tour India in favour of Eoin Morgan. Hopefully he will get another chance, but there are a fair few ahead of him now.

Samit Patel – 3
Patel was picked as a subcontinent specialist in Sri Lanka and India and whilst he never really failed he never did anything of note either and gave no indication that he was a Test player. He was rightly dropped for the last Test.

Joe Root – 7
Root was included in the party to tour India after an excellent season with Yorkshire and although he missed out on the opener’s spot in favour of Compton he did get a chance at six in Nagpur and played an exceptional innings after coming in at a tricky point in the first innings. He is probably the front-runner for the spot in New Zealand, though it’s still not settled.

Matt Prior – 9
It’s hard to ask for much more from Prior. He had another almost flawless year with the gloves and batted brilliantly with England often in strife and with the tail. His biggest problem right now is needless run outs.

Stuart Broad – 6
It was a mixed year for Broad; he started out by demolishing Pakistan in the UAE and taking eleven West Indian wickets at Lord’s. But he struggled to find his pace after that and after a middling series against South Africa he had injury problems in India and was dropped after a pair of shocking Tests. He still finished with a creditable forty wickets in eleven Tests.

Tim Bresnan – 2
After coming off a brilliant 2011, Bresnan started this year with elbow surgery that kept him out of the series in the UAE. He was never quite himself after that; his pace was down and he was not swinging the ball as much. His high point was running through the West Indies at Trent Bridge, but by the end of the year he was only picked due to injuries to other bowlers. His batting is down from what it was as well.

Graeme Swann – 9
He was helped by having nine Tests on the subcontinent, but Swann finishes 2012 as England’s leading wicket taker with 58 in 14 Tests. He was a consistent attacking threat for England and even finished the year with a stylish half-century in the first innings at Nagpur.

James Anderson – 9
Anderson had an incredible year as he seems to quite often. He got swing, both conventional and reverse, even on the notoriously unhelpful subcontinent wickets. He instigated top order collapses in all conditions including twice dismissing Kumar Sangakkara first ball and becoming the all time leading wicket taker against Sachin Tendulkar.

Chris Tremlett – 0
Tremlett played one Test in 2012 in which he failed to take a wicket. Subsequent injury and the success of Steven Finn and Graham Onions means he will have a tough time getting back into the team.

Monty Panesar – 7
Panesar came in as England’s second spinner for six of the nine subcontinent Tests and overall did very well. He took eleven wickets on the raging turner in Mumbai and had a some good performances in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and the first innings at Calcutta as well. He did have some trouble maintaining it and Swann will not fear for his place.

Steven Finn – 8
Finn only managed to play in five Tests partly due to injury, but in those Tests he bowled with consistent pace and an improved accuracy, taking twenty wickets. If he can stay fit he looks like he will replace Bresnan as England’s third seamer.

Graham Onions – 6
Onions was probably unlucky to only get one Test this year and especially unlucky to have that Test be almost completely washed out. He did take 4-88 in the only bowling innings though and should stay in England’s thoughts for next season.

India 1-2 England review and player marks

Ten months ago I stayed awake through the night and listened in horror as England capitulated against Pakistan’s spinners in Abu Dhabi. The contrast between that and staying up through the night in this series could hardly have been more pronounced.

England played remarkable cricket to win this series. They had a horror start as India piled on the runs in Ahmedabad and then England’s displayed their same problems against spin. To come back from that massive hole and nine wicket defeat was a massive achievement. After that they batted much better (actually they batted much better starting in the second innings at Ahmedabad) but more importantly they outbowled India. England’s spinners comfortably outperformed their Indian counterparts in Mumbai and then James Anderson took over in Calcutta and Nagpur. England’s willingness to adapt, sometimes ruthlessly, was perhaps their most impressive aspect. Stuart Broad had a shocking two Tests and was dropped despite being the vice-captain. England knew they had someone better. The same thing happened with Samit Patel; he did not play terribly, but England decided they had better batsmen to fill that role and Joe Root performed brilliantly.

That came in sharp contrast to India, who now have a lot of questions to answer. India’s selection throughout the series was muddled, their tactics were questionable and their players badly underperformed. They seemed to have watched England struggle to play spin last winter and at Ahmedabad in the first innings and then simply refused to believe over the next Tests that England had improved in that regard. They seemed certain that they were going to win the series and never responded when England started to get he upper hand. Their minds also seemed out of it. They showed some fight, but very seldom at times that were really important. When their chances of winning the series started to slip away in the second innings at Calcutta their entire middle order surrendered and left it to Ashwin to spare the humiliation of an innings defeat. On the fourth evening at Nagpur they lashed out at the batsmen and umpires instead of trying to actually get wickets before coming out the next morning, still with an outside chance to make something of the series, and doing absolutely nothing for five hours until they could shake hands. MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli showed admirable fight and application in their first innings at Nagpur, but it served mostly to highlight the absence of that mentality for the rest of the series.

As important as the tactics and relative mentality of the two sides were, however, England in the end simply outplayed India. Alastair Cook led the way and could seemingly only be denied a ton by dodgy umpiring. But six of the seven batsmen to get more than one Test for England scored a fifty in the series and so did one of the two who got only one Test. Four of them scored a hundred at some point and as a team England scored more than four hundred in three of their five completed innings. India managed to do the same just one time in six innings. Part of that was down to the bowlers; Stuart Broad aside, England’s generally turned in very good performances. They either took wickets or kept the batsmen tied down. India simply never had the same kind of control. Ashwin had a shocking series, Zaheer Khan was so bad he was actually dropped. Ishant Sharma and Pragyan Ojha were the only ones to do much and even they sometimes looked helpless. India did not help themselves with selection though; picking Piyush Chawla for the last Test was mystifying and it was clear well before he was dropped that India had better bowlers than Khan.

England deserved their victory, their first in India for 28 years. My marks for the individual players are as follows (and unlike the Times I don’t think any of them played for Chelsea at the weekend):

England (88/150, average 5.87)
Alastair Cook* – 10
Perfect ten for the captain. To use the old cliché, he led from the front with the bat and would have finished with the highest average fro England were it not for Joe Root getting his runs with only one dismissal. He also led the side well; his tactics were good, his bowling changes were good and he did not let heads drop after the defeat in the first Test. Now if only he could get a coin toss right more often than once every six times…

Nick Compton – 7
It was a good, if unspectacular series for Compton. He batted solidly in the first three Tests and helped England lay an important platform in the first innings of the Mumbai and Calcutta Tests before getting the winning runs in style in the first and keeping his head on the last day of the second. His final average does not do him justice.

Jonathan Trott – 5
Trott had a bit of trouble at the start of the series; he was a little bit scratchy and got out to some good deliveries and some only mediocre deliveries. But he finished strongly with 87 in Calcutta and 143 in Nagpur to see England to Test and series winning scores. His fielding at slip followed a similar pattern; he put down a sitter in the first Test, but took some very good catches later in the series.

Kevin Pietersen – 8
Pietersen was successfully reintegrated into the England side and marked this by attempting to sweep a ball that went on to hit his off stump. But that was the nadir of the series for him; he went on to play the best constructed century I have seen from him on a very difficult wicket in Mumbai and followed up with a pair of solid fifties in Calcutta and Nagpur.

Ian Bell – 5
Much like Trott, Bell had a poor start to the series. He played a horrific shot in Ahmedabad and although he looked in decent touch throughout he got a bit careless at times to get out. He came through in the last Test, however, playing a vital unbeaten hundred to ensure England’s safety.

Joe Root – 8
Root looked like a Test batsman from the first ball of his debut in Nagpur. He came in with England in a bit of trouble and played very mature 73 to see England most of the way to a good total. He will certainly be on the plane to New Zealand.

Matt Prior† – 9
Prior was very solid throughout the series; he had few errors behind the stumps as usual and scored runs at an average of better than fifty. His biggest blemish was the terrible run out that precipitated England’s collapse in Mumbai.

Tim Bresnan – 1
Bresnan only played the first and last Tests and he had an absolute shocker in the first. He was not threatening and had no control. He was a lot better in the second Test, though could not pick up a wicket on the lifeless Nagpur pitch. He did cause problems and keep the scoring down, however, which was about all a bowler could do.

Graeme Swann – 8
Swann was statistically England’s best bowler in this series. He took a team best twenty wickets at a team best 24.75 average. He never had a single standout performance, but he was always a threat to pick up wickets and made the most of the Mumbai track in taking 8-113 in the match.

James Anderson – 9
Swann was statistically England’s best bowler, but Anderson was England’s actual best bowler. He could only keep the runs down in the first Test and had little to do in the second with the spinners bowling, but turned in exceptional performances in the last two Tests. With the pitches still not giving him any assistance he took six wickets in Calcutta and four in the only innings he bowled in Nagpur.

Monty Panesar – 8
Panesar was left out of England’s defeat at Ahmedabad, but recalled for the raging turner at Mumbai. He took his chance as well as eleven wickets in the match. His performances in Calcutta and Nagpur were significantly less impressive, but he was able to bowl long spells that kept the runs down and pressure on.

Jonny Bairstow – 0
Bairstow only played one Test, filling in for Bell at Mumbai, and contributed nine runs to England’s first innings total before playing a terrible shot and then failing to realise that he wasn’t actually out off it. It was a poor innings and he did not get to bat in the second. He’ll have to fight to get his number six spot back in New Zealand.

Samit Patel – 3
Patel played in the first three Tests as and never really did anything wrong. But he never managed to convert any starts of follow up the promise he showed in the warmup matches and was dropped for Joe Root.

Stuart Broad – 0
Broad was appointed vice-captain before the start of the series, but was troubled by a heel injury and bowled utterly appallingly in the first two Tests. He was then dropped for the fit-again Steven Finn and ultimately returned to England for treatment.

Steven Finn – 7
Finn bowled very well in the only Test he played. But two different injuries (the first of which had a recurrence) kept him out of most of the series. It was a blow to England who clearly missed his pace and bounce in the other three Tests.

India (46/150, average 3.07)
Gautam Gambhir – 6
Gambhir had a surprisingly good series for someone who came into it so out of form. He made a nice rearguard fifty as the rest of the side collapsed around him in Mumbai and similarly made a few runs before the implosion at Calcutta. But he never managed to do anything with those starts and also ran out two partners in Calcutta. He’s only a few overs of surprisingly effective rubbish bowling away from being India’s answer to Shane Watson.

Virender Sehwag – 3
Sehwag scored a blistering 117 on the first day of the series, then returned to his usual form making only 136 runs in the next five innings. A lot of this was down to his terrible technique, but he also was run out by Gambhir when he was looking dangerous in Calcutta.

Cheteshwar Pujara – 8
Started the series by looking like Rahul Dravid had in England. He scored an unbeaten double century at Ahmedabd before scoring a fighting 135 in Mumbai to get India to a respectable, if ultimately insufficient, score. He fell off from there (how could he not), but between incorrect decisions and being run out by his partner he still comes out of the series well.

Sachin Tendulkar – 1
Tendulkar’s top score in this series was the 76 made whilst trying to arrest a collapse in Calcutta. That much is quite respectable, but his next highest score in the series was 13 and he failed to get to double figures in six of his eight innings. He looks very much like a fading force and it his not clear what he gains by hanging on any longer.

Virat Kohli – 3
Kohli scored a fantastic century in Nagpur that rescued India from a position of considerable danger. It was a great innings in which he completely abandoned his usual game and just accumulated runs. But he waited until the last innings of the series to do that; in the first three Tests his top score was exactly twenty.

MS Dhoni*† – 1
Dhoni took some responsibility for his side in the last Test and fought hard for his 99. But his tactical deficiencies throughout the series were glaring and his selection muddled. As much as he fought in the last Test, he surrendered just as much in the third Test. He will be lucky to hang on to the captaincy.

Ravindra Jadeja – 1
Jadeja gets a very low score, but only got to bat once and was trapped by a vicious inswinger from Anderson. There’s really not enough there to judge for the long term. His one point comes from the wickets he picked up bowling.

Ravichandran Ashwin – 3
It’s very hard to judge Ashwin in this series. He was meant to be their main spin bowler and a decent bat down the order. But he was utterly innocuous with the ball and took his wickets at over fifty runs apiece. But he still managed to keep his batting average higher than his bowling one with some excellent rearguards. But those all came too late to help his country; he needed to perform with the ball and didn’t.

Piyush Chawla – 2
Chawla somehow took four wickets in England’s first innings despite bowling fairly poorly throughout. He was never threatening in the second innings and actually never should have been picked.

Ishant Sharma – 4
Sharma was India’s best bowler in the last Test and did okay in the third as well. But that was all relative and it was not a pair of Tests he will put on his highlight reel. The nadir was probably dropping an easy return chance from Alastair Cook, but his fielding overall was worse than lazy.

Pragyan Ojha – 6
Ojha was the only Indian bowler to really show up in the series and he finished level with Swann as the lead wicket taker in the series. Those wickets still came at a cost of over thirty apiece, however, as he was often made to toil during England’s long innings in the second and third Tests.

Yuvraj Singh – 1
Yuvraj Singh was apparently selected off a desire for a fairy-tale comeback story and a thought that he would be useful against Kevin Pietersen. But he has never really been Test quality and he showed that again in the first three Tests before being dropped for Nagpur.

Harbhajan Singh – 0
Selected as a third spinner for Mumbai, Harbhajan Singh took only the wickets of two tail-enders and scored 27 runs in what very well might turn out to be his last Test. Certainly he did nothing to suggest that he was still good enough to play Test cricket and did not even get a recall when India played four spinners at Nagpur.

Umaesh Yadav – 7
Yadav looked very good in the one Test in which he played. Unfortunately for India he then picked up an injury and missed the rest of the series. It was a story very similar to that of Steven Finn for England and like Finn India missed him quite a bit.

Zaheer Khan – 0
Khan is another who may very well have played his last Test; he managed just 4-213 in the first three Tests and three of those came in the first Test. For the most part England were happy to hit him around and happy to find him in the field as well; he was distinctly disinclined to pursue balls hit near him.

Nagpur, day four: England 161-3

The series is almost in England’s grasp. They need only to bat for another three hours or so on the last day to put the match out of India’s reach and guarantee a 2-1 win. India actually helped them a bit with one of the strangest first hours one will ever see to start the fourth day. I said on day three that India should try to build a lead and the other alternative was to hit out and get to parity as quickly as possible. Instead they decided to farm the strike and went at one an over for a time. It was neither getting enough runs to put England under pressure or giving them time to bowl and was only ended when MS Dhoni inexplicably declared four runs in arrears at drinks. India had essentially taken an hour out of a Test they needed to win.

Like day three, most of the excitement today came in the last hour, but there was some interest in the afternoon this time. England batted very slowly through the start of the day, determined to keep wickets in hand. Alastair Cook eventually fell and fell to a decision just as bad as the one which disposed of him in the first innings. Both were from Kumar Dharmasena who did make some good decisions in the match, but the number of utter howlers he has made will ensure it is a match he wants to forget. It would be over-dramatic to say that his errors have ruined the match, but they are just as bad for the game as the terrible pitch. It is not possible to properly construct innings when the umpire is giving random decisions and undermines the credibility of the game.

These problems would be strongly mitigated with DRS, but India refuse to use it and one of the reasons they refuse is that they thinks it does not show respect to the umpires. But apparently no one told the Indian players. Late in the day Jonathan Trott played at one away from his body and the Indians appealed for a catch behind. There was a noise, but Dharmasena gave it not out. The Indians response to this was simply disgraceful. They surrounded Trott and the umpire and Virat Kohli was particularly loud. It was very reminiscent of the antics of Ricky Ponting and Peter Siddle at the MCG in 2010. It was utterly unacceptable behaviour; Kohli should lose a fair bit of his match fee and Dhoni should not get off either. Having DRS would not necessarily prevent scenes like that one, the 2010/11 Ashes of course did have DRS and that was what sent Ponting into his rage, but it does completely undermine the BCCI’s point about respecting the umpires.

After this things started to get ugly. Ravichandran Ashwin made one of the worst Mankading threats to Trott one will see. I have no problem with Mnkading in principle; if the batsman is trying to steal a run the bowler should be able to stop him. But Trott was not trying to steal a run; he was actually following the law perfectly. He did not leave his ground until Ashwin had started his delivery stride. That is the law, as was subsequently pointed out to me the new playing conditions allow a Mankad up until the delivery swing, but Ashwin actually went through his entire delivery motion without releasing the ball before turning around to talk to have a few more words with Trott. The ball was long since dead by this point so it would have been an utterly futile endeavour either way. Ashwin gave an odd justification for this in the press conference; he said that India were upset that Trott had hit a mistake delivery from Jadeja for four earlier in the day. But this holds little to no water; Trott had hit his four a full session, 34 overs, before the threatened Mankad and at the time even the Indians were chuckling! If they were upset about it then they had an odd way of showing it.

One gets the impression that India were letting their frustrations show as the series started to get away from them. They are very close to losing a series on home soil for the first time since 2004 and they are justifiably upset about this. But they have only themselves to blame for their predicament and lashing out at the umpires and opposition is not at all acceptable.

Calcutta, day two: England 216-1

The second day of the Calcutta Test will be remembered mostly as the one on which Alastair Cook set two records. Upon reaching 88* not out he became the youngest player in history to 7,000 Test runs, displacing a certain Sachin Tendulkar. Twelve runs later he became the first Englishman ever to score 23 Test centuries, passing the record of 22 that had been set by Wally Hammond over seventy years prior. And for good measure the hundred also meant that he extended his record with now a hundred in each of his first five matches as captain.

Cook did offer one chance in his innings; during a difficult spell after lunch he edged a ball from Zaheer Khan low to slip where it went through Cheteshwar Pujara’s hands to continue a poor Test for him. But Cook settled down against the spinners, including lofting a straight six off Ravichandran Ashwin, and looking in command thereafter. He and Nick Compton, who made his maiden Test fifty in the innings, did a fantastic job taking singles and squeezing out extra runs as well. Neither really took the attack to the bowlers or crashed boundary after boundary, as one would expect, but England still scored 99 runs in the afternoon thanks to some relentless running between the wickets. It even brought out a few replays of the Sehwag run out from yesterday on the BCCI broadcast and the contrast was stark.

One of the effects of this style of play was that India appeared to give up again. It is something to which they are very much prone; we saw it many times in Australia and England last year. Once Cook and Compton got well settled and scoring fairly freely India did not seem to have any plans to get a wicket and were utterly lacklustre in the field. Even after Compton played a poor shot to give his wicket away (albeit with a very small umpire error also involved) India did not pick up the energy and go after Jonathan Trott at all. One ball spun sharply and beat the edge of Trott, but other than that he was allowed to settle in for the hour before stumps and he made it to 21* overnight. India are still (exactly) a hundred runs ahead, but they seemed tonight like they were bowling for a declaration and it is the same thing that we saw in the last three Tests in England and two of the Tests in Australia. They just don’t seem to have any fight when things start going against them and in a situation like this it is a very bad trait to have. They are by no means out of this match after only two days, but if they do not turn their attitude around tomorrow they will be and out of any chance to win the series to boot.

The only criticism of what was otherwise a dominant performance by England today was the bowling to the last wicket partnership this morning. After getting Khan and Ishant Sharma out cheaply and early England reverted to the tactic of doing everything they could to get Dhoni off strike so they could bowl to Pragyan Ojha instead. India managed to put on twenty for that partnership including two huge sixes from Dhoni and in the end it was he who got out anyway. The Indian batsmen had struggled throughout the innings, but England simply decided not to try to get one of them out at the end and gift him some runs. It was very frustrating and if they had just bowled at Dhoni in the first place there is every chance they would have bowled India out for under three hundred. It may be a minor point in the grand scheme of the Test, but it is something I would like to see England approach better in the future.

Tomorrow could see England take a strangle-hold on this Test if India do not perform better than they did for most of today. India need to make sure England do not bat through the day and they probably need a wicket with the new ball when it becomes due about half an hour into play. If Cook and Trott see the shine off the second new ball though and continue to set a platform then India will have the problem of Kevin Pietersen. I often become frustrated with Pietersen’s approach, but if he comes in with England almost 300-2 and the Indian attack toiling then it will be the perfect time for him to play one of his aggressive innings and India could find themselves in a massive hole very quickly. They must dislodge Cook or Trott early enough to still have a decent chance at Pietersen.

In the Test at the Eden Gardens in February of 2010 South Africa were bowled out for 296 in the first innings before India responded with over six hundred and ultimately an innings victory. A lot could still change, but England have given themselves a chance to recreate the pattern of that Test and they need to keep their heads tomorrow morning and continue pushing toward a huge score.

Ahmedabad day one: India 323-4

The Test series did not get off to a great start for England. First they lost the toss on a pitch that was expected to break up quite a bit on the last two days and should be hard to bat last on. Then they realised that for the first day the pitch was an utter road. It was slow and low and with utterly nothing in it for the seamers. India finished the first session 120-0 with no clear chances even for England, though not all of that was the pitch. England bowled very poorly in the morning session; when it was clear that they were not going to get anything out of the pitch they tried to bowl too many magic balls instead of just settling into the choking off runs tactic. They were a bit better in the afternoon, they got a few wickets and created real chances, but it was not until the final session that they really worked out how to bowl on the pitch. England conceded 120-0 in the morning, 130-3 in the afternoon and then came back for just 73-1 in the evening.

The ongoing problem for England on the first day was their catching though. It is particularly frustrating as it was not so long ago that they were so good in the field, but they have really fallen off in that area this year. So far the most costly drop looks like it is going to be that of Cheteshwar Pujara. He offered an absolute dolly of a leading edge to James Anderson when on only eight and Anderson dreadfully misjudged the flight of the ball. To be fair to him, it is hard to read a ball hit on a directly to a fielder; one can’t judge if one has to go back or in until the ball almost reaches its apex. It comes up quite a bit with outfielders in baseball, but because it is easier to come in for a ball then go back for it they are taught to go back first if unsure and then come in. Anderson started in though and could not get back as the ball landed right where he had been standing.

That was the most costly drop, but it was not the worst. England could have had Virat Kohli out before they ultimately did when he edged Swann to slip and Jonathan Trott not only put down a sitter, but then rolled over on it and tried to claim the catch. It’s hard to say whether the easy drop was more infuriating than the blatant bit of dishonesty that followed, but taken together they were quite possibly the nadir of the day for England. It was absolutely appalling.

India are clearly well on top after the first day. England did well to drag them back after the first session, but they could not quite make the breakthroughs they needed in the evening to keep it quite close. But they are at least still in the match. England will be thinking that some early wickets today and they could keep India to what might be a below-par total on this pitch. But even below-par on this pitch will still be quite a lot and England will have to bat very well whenever they get the chance.

England still don’t need Pietersen

It was reported in the Telegraph that Kevin Pietersen had refused to sign a four-month contract with England before being left out of the touring squad to India. In other words, for all his talk about committing to England and wanting to play for England when given the chance to return he decided that he did not want to do what was required of him. His arrogance is staggering; he is labouring under the delusion the one calling the shots. He has to be forgiven by Flower and his (former) teammates to come back and whilst that ought indeed to happen, Pietersen does not seem to grasp that it is not down to him, the one seeking forgiveness, to set the terms. He must show humility and contrition for his behaviour over the whole summer to be allowed back and a large part of that is simply accepting the terms given by Flower and co and then actually working to get back into the side. It should not have to be stated that giving one’s public ‘apology’ via an agent and then haggling about one’s penitence is not the path to forgiveness.

In the meantime, we will be treated to more hysteria about England not having a chance in India without Pietersen. I’m not sure on what this is based; it’s not like England have been cruising to victory in Asia with him. Excluding the two match series in Bangladesh in 2010, Pietersen has played 16 Tests in Asia of which England have won only two and lost nine. England have not won any of those six series, the best result being a 1-1 draw in India in 2006 and of course Pietersen himself led the team to a 0-1 defeat in India in 2008.

The individual averages are even more damming. Pietersen in his career averages only 33.94 in Tests in Asia (excluding Bangladesh) in 31 innings. There are six batsmen with better averages in Asia in those same Tests (excluding Owais Shah who played only one) with the list topped by Marcus Trescothick and Paul Collingwood. And yet I have not heard anyone suggest that England cannot win in India without Collingwood or Trescothick. Amongst current players Pietersen is behind Cook, Prior and Trott (and Strauss, if one wishes to look at until-very-recently-current players as well). Despite all the suggestions that he can take the game away from oppositions and counter spin in a manner of which no one else is supposedly capable, the fact is that he either can’t or doesn’t. I’d much rather have Colly back than Pietersen.

But perhaps that is harsh. All it really shows is that Pietersen is not some talisman to lead us to victory in India. And whilst that is an important point it does not mean that he has not been vital in the wins we have had elsewhere. England’s most notable victories in recent times have come in the 2009 and 2010/11 Ashes and in the 4-0 win over India in 2011. Perhaps Pietersen was integral to those? Well, not quite. He’s been good, of course; he’s been useful. But he has not been the main factor. Pietersen actually only played two matches in the 2009 Ashes, during which he averaged only 38. To be fair, few of the batsmen had a good series, but that was still only a bit more than Graeme Swann who averaged 36 in all five Tests. Pietersen was also outscored in the series by Jonathan Trott who played in just one Test.

In 2010/11 Pietersen finished behind Cook, Trott and Bell in the series averages (and was not even close to the first two) despite scoring 227 in just one innings at Adelaide. That one innings was an outstanding display and utterly deserving of all the praise put on it. But the other four Tests got him just 133 runs. He helped England win that series, but he did not do so alone and was not even the biggest contributor. And of course, that only looks at the batting. He was not at all involved in England bowling Australia out for 98 in Melbourne.

The only one of those three great wins where Pietersen really was the main destroyer was in 2011 against India. He scored 533 runs at an average of over 100 with a pair of centuries (one of them an unbeaten double ton). Once again there were some brilliant innings and his contributions are deservedly praised. But once again he was not alone. He was the highest of seven England batsmen to average over fifty (and barely scored more than Ian Bell) in that series and once again the bowlers did just as much work. He was a huge help for England but he was not the reason they won.

The conclusion is obvious: Pietersen is a good player. He is an asset to England, but he is not the only asset. England can win matches when he is absent or not contributing and they can lose matches when he plays. He is one player not The Chosen One. The suggestions that England can not win without him are likely a product of a combination of hyperbole and poor memory; they certainly do not have a factual grounding.