England have a genuine opportunity to win a series in India for the first time in 28 years as long as they don’t let this big win go to their heads.
After the batting shambles in Ahmedabad and the pathetic non-selection of Monty Panesar nobody would have thought that this victory was possible, especially after captain MS Dhoni was given the used spinning pitch he wanted and then won a crucial toss. But still England outbowled and outbatted India in their own backyard.
It is unheard of out here, so whoever said it is a funny old game deserves a medal. After we lost in Ahmedabad I wrote in a previous piece: “I believe if Monty partnered Swann our spinners will be better than theirs.” Why? Because our two bowl the ball quicker, impart greater spin and hit a fuller length more often than the Indian spinners.
Monty and Swanny put more body into their deliveries. There is more zip and action on the ball so if it turns and bounces when a batsman has to play forward there is hardly any time to adjust.
Pragyan Ojha and Harbhajan Singh are slower, loopy bowlers – an action which can, and does, get wickets but it also gives a batsman more time to stay back, watch the ball spin and adjust his stroke. It is still difficult when you first go in to bat, but the longer you stay in, the easier it becomes to play the ball.
Ravi Ashwin has 50 wickets in fewer Tests than any other Indian bowler. But he does not impress me. There is not enough spin, he is too short in length and his direction is all over the place.
Anil Kumble and Derek Underwood would have been a nightmare to face here. They bowled the ball quicker, flatter and were accurate. They made you worry where your next run would be coming from, but not this lot.
I think India got carried away with their big victory in Ahmedabad and believed their own publicity. They also became convinced England were a poor team in the subcontinent. They were sucked in by recent history. We lost four Test matches out of five this year – three against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates and one to Sri Lanka in Galle – and by focusing so much on England’s poor cricket they did not analyse their own deficiencies.
These three Indian spinners are not in the great class of many who have gone before them. England just made them look good by picking three seamers and by making bad batting mistakes in the first Test.
India also never looked at their own batsmen. Gautam Gambhir was in poor form until this second innings, while Sachin Tendulkar has not scored a century since January 2011 and there is lots of speculation about whether he should retire.
Virat Kohli has played three awful shots in this series and Yuvraj Singh has never quite shown his one-day talent at Test level.
I am well aware that England’s batting has not been great. We got away with two fantastic and different types of centuries from Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen in this match. But some of our other batsmen have to start putting runs on the board.
Ian Bell will have to come back into the side because, after Pietersen, he has the best range of shot of any other player. But batting coach Graham Gooch and team director Andy Flower have to impress upon him to stay in and trust his technique early on. Irresponsible shots like that first ball in Ahmedabad should not be tolerated.
Jonny Bairstow or Samit Patel will have to make way for him. If England believe that Patel can play spin well and that he gives them an option as half a bowler, they have to go with him. It would not necessarily be my choice but it is logical.
We need to get Jonathan Trott going. He is the one other player who can stick in, seal an end and play a long innings like Cook. Trott is just not getting in at the moment. He has to be more positive. Just trying to defend is not the best way to succeed.
Nick Compton did the right thing in making 30 not out as we knocked off the winning runs. He had an excellent defence but looked to score at every opportunity. This takes the initiative away from the bowler.
Batting will again be the key for us in Calcutta. If we can make enough runs I am confident our spinners will do well. How well will depend on what sort of pitch they prepare for us.
After the match Dhoni was still talking a good game about asking for more turning pitches. But will he and the groundsman have the confidence to give us another turning pitch? I don’t think so.