England break 27-year duck in India

Stats are funny things in test match cricket. Some are misleading, while others get lost in the intricacies and variations of the surface and location, but this was one which is resonated whichever way you looked at it: England had not won a test series in India for 27 years.

The England cricket team won their first test series in India for 27 years. Photo: Gareth Williams (via Flickr)

Having tonked an impressive Indian side on home soil last year, this was a challenge topped by few in terms of its difficulty.

Indian grounds favour the spinners whereas England’s side with the seamers. The home crowd are notoriously loud and India have long been a huge force in world cricket. The last time India lost at home was eight years ago, against arguably the greatest test side of all time; Ponting’s rampant Australia.

Such then was the magnitude of the position England had reached when the fourth test in Nagpur arrived on Thursday, December 13th. Being 2-1 up with a test match to go, England were on the edge of history’s proverbial plunge into the record books. But let’s take a moment to remember how we got there.

Starting the quicker in the first test in Ahmedabad, India punished England with a total of 521-8. England crumbled under the pressure, posting a measly 191 and, in being forced to follow on, found form. However, it came too late, posting an impressive 406 leaving India to mop up with a brief run chase.

England had to respond in Mumbai, and they certainly did.

Panesar came to life with 5-129 to restrict India to 327. Through the indomitable Alistair Cook and Kevin Pietersen (122 and 188 respectively), England forged a lead of 86. They capitalised bowling India out for just 142, with Panesar taking a superb six wickets leaving Cook and Compton to coast to victory.

Having been bitten hard, England had bitten back, and had a taste for blood.

Restricting India to 300-odd again, a marvellous 190 from Cook drove England to 523 and a lead of over 200. This time it was Jimmy Anderson and Steven Finn, the seamers, who collected the wickets which maintained England’s pressure, and having restricted India’s response to 247, Ian Bell carried England across the line.

And so we arrived in Nagpur.

From an initial series losing position of 139-5, Matt Prior and debutant Joe Root, whose name will be subject to many lovely puns during his test career, dragged England kicking and screaming back into contention with a partnership of 103. With Swann doing most of the tail wagging for 56, England finished on a par score 330.

England hit India hard with that momentum swing, and on 71-4 the series looked in safe hands. However, a partnership of 198 between Kohli and Dhoni had India looking in complete control at 269-4, only for the hard work of Swann and Anderson, as well as a sweet Cook run out, to restrict India to 326-9. In attempting to force a result going into day 4, India declared.

With a lead of 4, the onus was on England to make India pay. A second soft dismissal of Cook though, and England were in trouble on 94-3. It was only for Trott and Bell to soothe our tension with two phenomenally timed centuries which had the Indians frustrated and bemoaning the lack of DRS (rather pleasingly self-inflicted). This  showed us the series was over with a draw enough for England.

2-1 isn’t the most impressive scoreline. It usually implies a close encounter, but since the embarrassment of the first test, the truth is that England were dominant and, for the most part, in control of this series in their assured performances. Hard work from the bowlers, and contributions from every specialist batsman meant England’s heads never dropped.

Alistair Cook and co. can leave the sub-continent knowing the Australians will have noted this performance. Bring on the Ashes.

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