“IN IN IN IN”
Not only was this the desperate thought running through my dense head as Alastair Cook was trapped more or less plumb in front when he was on just 41 of his 176 at Ahmedabad, but it also reminds The Wrong’Un of another spiffing phrase – “INgland wIN IN INdia”. Very very tenuous – which is just how The Wrong’Un likes it.
The bottom line is, England return home from INdia with a Test Series victory for the first time in 27 years, and India have lost their first series at home to anyone since 2004. This is a huge step for English cricket, and the first time they’ve upset the odds since the Ashes Down Under 2010-11 (every series since they’ve been favourites for, in which period they’ve lost to both South Africa and Pakistan).
So how good was it?
India are in no great shape themselves. The recent retirements of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman has left what looks an unbridgable gap in the batting order, and yet the consensus is that the remaining legend – Sachin Tendulkar – should be the next one to make way, meaning there would be three spots to fill instead of two. It is a difficult one and with the weight of 100 international centuries behind him, you can understand the selectors’ unwillingness to drop him. In the end it was his gritty knock in the Second Test which got India to any sort of total, but overall Tendulkar had a quiet series.
Regardless, with Sehwag remaining a dangerous game-changer (England’s lack of declaration on the 5th day in Nagpur was no doubt partly attributable to his presence – give him even 20 overs and he could make a fist of any chase below 300), and with Pujara at 3 having an exceptional couple of Tests, the turnaround was phenomenal. England’s batsmen even managed to look comfortable at the end against spin pair Ojha and Ashwin, though pre-tour inklings that the pair aren’t exactly up to their predecessors standards were confirmed.
The tour can be put into perspective by asking which other international sides could have pulled off a victory. You’d obviously look at South Africa – who certainly have the batting to do so – and yet they’ve not won in India since 1998, though they have managed draws in their last two attempts. The final hurdle they are lacking is a spinner capable of the mannerly Monty’s magic in the second Test, and they are yet further again from having a pair of spinners of the calibre of he and Swann in order to turn those drawn series’ into wins.
The alienism of the subcontinent wouldn’t hold too many fears for either Pakistan or Sri Lanka; it isn’t tough to imagine that Pakistan’s talented side would have a good chance if they were ever to tour again especially (though they haven’t won there since 1987!). Sri Lanka vs India would be a batsman’s series with neither side capable of bowling the other out.
Australia have far too many weaknesses in their side to be taken seriously although Clarke would no doubt single-handedly make it a closely fought loss, and the West Indies don’t have the belief needed to challenge a top 5 side just yet – although in Narine they would have the better bowler. NZ are in turmoil, and are almost as pointless a mention as Zimbabwe.
The victory is IN the bag. INdia have been tamed IN their own back yard. Umpire Dharmesena decided that Cook was IN (well, technically ‘not out’, but the tenuous theme is retained).
IN IN IN IN…