December 18, 2012

England in India 2012

Ruthless England

It may be the middle of winter in the UK, and thoughts turning to last-minute Christmas shopping, but that doesn't mean cricket has been forgotten. Far from it. The morning after England ended their 28-year wait for a series win in India the papers were full of reaction and analysis of what the team achieved and where it stands in history.

In the Daily Mail, Nasser Hussain says it was some tough decisions made by Andy Flower and Alastair Cook that laid the base for England's fightback

But when Alastair Cook scored a big hundred in a losing cause in Ahmedabad in that second innings things changed. It was the moment the captain said to his team: 'Hang on, there are no demons here. The ball is not spinning both ways. If we show some character, application and belief we can do this.' And since then the transformation has been astonishing. Everything England have done since then has been right. And their business has been conducted in a quite ruthless manner. There has been no dilly-dallying, no worrying about reputations. This has been anything but a closed shop.

Over on the Daily Telegraph website, Scyld Berry agrees with MS Dhoni about James Anderson and writes that it was the absence of a quality paceman that hurt India.

What took India to No 1 in the world Test rankings a couple of years ago was not their truly great batting line-up. For almost the only time since independence they had a fine pace bowler at each end, taking early wickets so middle-order batsmen came in against spin with fielders crowding the bat.

A four-Test series also allows for many momentum shifts and vital little moments that two-Test encounters aren't able to replicate. Kevin Pietersen's 186 in Mumbai and Monty Panesar's 11 wickets were obviously vital, but in the Guardian Rob Smyth takes a look at some of the smaller details that helped England.

The series turned during a partnership of 206 between Cook and Kevin Pietersen in the second Test. Their stand would have been ended at 122 had Ravichandran Ashwin and MS Dhoni not fluffed the chance to run out Cook for 90 in the third over of the third day. England's other batsmen struggled in the innings, with Nos 5-11 scoring 69 between them. Had Cook fallen, Pietersen might not have had the time or the freedom to smash a superb 186.

Also writing for the Guardian, Andy Bull assesses the role played by Andy Flower after what had been a difficult year for the England team director where a few mistakes had crept into his decision making.

A lot has changed over these past two months. Pietersen's reintegration has been carried out so seamlessly that by the second Test it had ceased to be an issue at all. After all that time, the media had finally fallen silent on the matter. Both men deserve credit for that - it takes an open mind and a willing heart to let go of a grudge, however silly the spat that caused it might have been.

That reconciliation rather sums up Flower's year, which has not been defined by the decisions he got right so much as it has the manner in which he responded to the ones he got wrong. England started 2012 as the best Test team in the world and yet lost seven Test matches and two series, a record which made it their worst calendar year in more than a decade. The ship did not just drift off course, it started to sink.

We can't forget Alastair Cook, of course. In the Independent, James Lawton adds to the praise being heaped on the England captain, but also has some tough words for India.

Ultimately, though, there was no question about the most encouraging aspect of England's historic success. It was the tour of Captain Cook, the time when he came of age not only as a leader of immense promise but a Test cricketer of the first rank. His predecessor Andrew Strauss could hardly have set a better tone, a more enduring example, but Cook's achievement is to make it look like a seamless transition.

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