Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The first test passed

A thumpingly convincing start to the series for England can only give us confidence going into Friday's second test. The fact that we've only been bowled out once in the last 4 test matches really has to be looked at positively.

Of course, India struggled with fitness/injury issues but I've said before, fitness is part of greatness - it's not unlucky that Zaheer pulls a hamstring if he's hardly played for 6 months and India haven't had a proper and thorough preparation. It amazes me that in an era with such detailed expertise on sports psychology, nutrition and preparation, cricketing schedules still seem to be put together poorly so frequently. Take England's post-Ashes timetable for a prime example. 

A comparison of the two teams shows how similar they are and yet how England were simply the superior team at Lord's:

Strauss - Mukund: Two left-handed openers, Strauss scored 54 runs, Mukund 62. Pretty similar games I'd say. 4/10 for them both
Cook - Gambhir: Two more lefty openers. Both absolute test match run machines who performed poorly at Lord's. Cook scored 13 off 63 balls - he only gets 2/10. Gambhir, with an injury in the second innings did OK, with 37 in total. He gets 3/10
Trott - Dravid: The parallels between these two hard grafting, battling number 3's are obvious. Awesome test match averages and an ability to hang in there matched in modern cricket only really by Chanderpaul. Trott put in 70 and 22, while Dravid was 103* in the first innings and a nagging 36 in the second. They score 7/10 and 9/10 respectively. 
Pietersen - Tendulkar: Two explosive, devastating and incredibly skilled batters. Two greats of the game - one has a long way to go to prove his true greatness, but took a massive step here. One has no critics to answer but bluntly put, performed poorly in this match. Sachin is of course the legend but in this contest, it was Pietersen who was the match-winner. KP 10/10, ST 4/10
Bell - Laxman: Another pair of remarkably similar batsmen, with beautiful stroke-making and a stylish and crowd-pleasing technique. Yet both are prone to a lapse in concentration and such was the case at Lord's. VVS threw away a strong start in the second innings with a lazy swipe, fitting that it was his opposite number who nonchalantly plucked it out of the air. Bell 4/10, Laxman 5/10
Morgan - Raina: Two lefties who have made their name in limited overs cricket and have serious potential in the test arena. Raina showed good form in the second innings (and particularly benefited from India vetoing DRS on LBW decisions). Eoin played an important role in stopping the second innings rot but contributed only 19 runs so scores just 2/10. Suresh gave India hope for a while but his 78 proved to be in vain but for scoring him 6/10 with me.
Prior - Dhoni: Another easy comparison, two aggressive wicketkeeper batsmen. Only this time out, it was only Matt Prior who dominated with the bat, as well as being the better keeper. 178 runs, including an unbeaten century in extremely difficult circumstances, compared to a mere 44 from MS means the Sussex gloveman scores 10/10 and the Indian captain takes home just 3/10 alongside his excuses.
Swann - Harbhajan: two top-class off-spinners who can bat aggressively. Swann did a great job, adding 24 quick runs in his only innings, Habhajan looked thoroughly uncomfortable with the bat and scored just 12 across his two innings. With the ball, Swann returned only 114/2 but his Indian equivalent took just 208/1, at nearly 2 runs per over more as well. No question who wins this match-up. The best spinner in the world 6/10. The Turbanator just 1/10.
Broad - Zaheer: I know I've played about with the order but these two top class bowlers came into the game with question marks over their heads. One off form and the other unfit. Broad returned to form, Zaheer most definitely did not return to fitness. Even if ZK makes it to Edgbaston officially not injured, he is certainly not going to be at the height of fitness. Broad played exceptionally, with bat and ball, so scores 9/10 while Zaheer's brief bowling spell in the first innings earns him a 4/10. May seem harsh but there's no prizes for  bowling a couple of early strikes before leaving the alley.

Tremlett - Sharma: Two tall bouncy pace bowlers that had mixed games. Tremlett was somewhat overshadowed by his colleagues' feats but 124/4 isn't exactly a poor performance. Especially not when you see that Ishant took 187/4 - one good spell can win you a match but apparently not this time. Tremmers 7/10, Ishant 6/10
Anderson - Kumar: The two swing bowlers (I know, I've really played with the order but it's their bowling that matters). Both found their names engraved on the Lord's Honours Board for 5 wicket hauls - Over the two innings, Kumar took 176/6 but the new world number 2 bowler came home with figures of 152/7 and a truly match-winning display on day 5, taking the not insignificant scalps of Dravid, Laxman, Tendulkar and Raina (total test match average if you're wondering, 194). Jimmy scores 9/10, with Praveen a very decent 8/10. 

I'm sure the Will Huntings among you have worked it out already but this leaves the total scores, out of 110 of course as follows:

England = 70
India = 53

There's been a lot of talk about India being slow starters, and I know well enough how England can collapse after an early good performance (see Perth 2010 vs Aus, Headlingley 2009 vs Aus, The Oval 2010 vs Pakistan), but there's every reason to be confident. If the batting can keep up its recent consistency, I can only see one winner. England by 100-150 runs or by 5-7 wickets

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