England v India, 1st npower Test, Lord's, 5th day July 25, 2011

England's bowling a class apart

England lost the toss, batted through the toughest conditions of the Test, had almost everyone contribute and bowled as a team. It was a well-deserved victory

The Test wasn't without its ebbs and flows and India did manage to bat almost 100 overs in the final innings but even the most fervent Indian supporter would find it impossible to dispute England's comprehensive superiority in this Test. They batted through the toughest conditions in the Test, pulled themselves out of a wobble in the second innings and their bowlers remained threatening throughout. Only the catching remains a concern but the optimistic view would be that the margin of victory was massive despite five dropped catches.

The most satisfactory aspect of this impressive and commanding performance was the totality of it. Kevin Pietersen was Man of the Match for his epic, skillfully-constructed double hundred, but England owed their first-day survival as much to Jonathan Trott, the kind of batsman who is likely to be more appreciated by fellow cricketers than fans. Matt Prior provided two vital innings from No. 7, helping England consolidate in the first innings, and later taking them from a potentially risky position to an unassailable one. And Ian Bell and Stuart Broad were vital in building partnerships at important junctures in the match.

But the bowlers were the real heroes of the match. The English camp has, throughout this Test, underlined the challenge of claiming 20 wickets at Lord's and certainly the wickets had to be earned. Even without Virender Sehwag and without much practice in these conditions, India are a formidable Test match lineup. To restrict them to under 300 in both innings on a reasonably good batting pitch took discipline, perseverance, skill and teamwork. The batsmen were never allowed to feel settled at the crease, the prospect of a wicket loomed almost constantly and England raised the intensity every time a breakthrough was achieved.

In most circumstances, dropping great batsmen would deflate the bowlers. Remarkably, every dropped catch at Lord's seemed to galvanise the England bowlers. In the first innings, Stuart Broad netted the biggest fish by pitching it up and swinging it away from Sachin Tendulkar. In his next over he saw both Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman dropped; at that stage, he could have had the entire top order either caught behind or bowled.

Broad's Ashes-winning 5 for 37 at The Oval in 2009 was perhaps more dramatic but it came on a far more helpful pitch. This was a more wholesome performance: his menace was consistent and sustained, and he became the enforcer in the truest sense by delivering wickets throughout the match.

Chris Tremlett was his perfect foil. Much is said of the awkward bounce he generates from a length but he beat the bat repeatedly by making the ball hold its line. He consistently troubled Dravid in the first innings and earned Tendulkar's wicket for Broad by choking him up after three confident boundaries. He had served notice to the Indians in 2007 with a sharp spell in Nottingham that accounted for three top-order wickets, though they proved inconsequential because they had only a few runs to defend. Since his return to the side during the latest Ashes, he has looked the complete package, with pace, bounce, seam movement and accuracy. His impact on this Test was far greater than the four wickets that the scorecard recorded.

Broad and Tremlett together made up for a below-par first-innings performance from James Anderson, who came in to the series with top billing. But Anderson began to find his rhythm as the match wore on and as he switched to the Nursery End. The ball that bowled Zaheer Khan on the third day, pitching on leg and middle and straightening to hit off, would have been good enough for any top-order batsman.

It was inconceivable for India to save this Test without a huge contribution from their big three and Dravid and Laxman, batting in their 30s overnight and growing in confidence, presented the biggest impediment to an England victory. Once Anderson removed them on either side of the first drinks break, India were always struggling. It could be argued that both batsmen conspired to dismiss themselves, but it was reward for relentless bowling.

Tendulkar's wicket was the decisive blow, and for good reason; Anderson could have got him twice in the space of three balls. The first one drew Tendulkar forward to elicit an edge that Andrew Strauss spilled at first slip. Two balls later he nipped one back to trap Tendulkar lbw, just as he had done four years ago at this ground.

This was the sixth time Anderson has nailed Tendulkar and, in doing so, he joined Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie as Tendulkar's tormentors-in-chief - and, with the other two retired, he has the opportunity now to pull ahead. At the moment, Anderson v Tendulkar reads: 223 balls, 114 runs, 6 dismissals, average 19.00.

Graeme Swann managed only two wickets, but both were top-order ones and came at crucial junctures. He was by some margin the best spinner in the match and, though Rahul Dravid played him exceptionally in both innings, he created far more opportunities than his more experienced rival. It is Swann's presence that tilts the scale marginally in favour of this English bowling unit ahead of the class of 2005. Ashley Giles could do a holding job, Swann takes wickets.

India were bedeviled by the injury to their premier bowler on the first day that neutered their bowling attack, and their batting order, already weakened by the absence of Sehwag, was further unsettled by Tendulkar's illness and Gautam Gambhir's injury. But they would be disappointed with the batting on the final day. Dravid was livid with himself after nicking a wide ball, and Laxman wore his familiar shell-shocked look after pulling one straight to midwicket.

As MS Dhoni said after the match, everything that could have gone wrong went wrong for India in this match. But, as they have shown on their route to becoming the top-ranked Test side, they are pretty good at moving on.

Sambit Bal is the editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on July 28, 2011, 11:03 GMT

    what did everyone expect really. With harbhjan losing all effectiveness and only 2 bowlers, bowling over 120 overs, did you expect that to take out england's batting and 20 wickets? Ishant and praveen have played theri first match in england, praveens played like 4 overall, and then harbhjan wasnt applying pressure at all. England should have gotten over 400 plus. And plus its england's home ground. I can see this indian bowling attack doing better in the second test, with more experience now. England bowled well, but without match practice and under pressure, and swinging condtions, no team would have survived. If Zaheer is unfit, put in Sreesanth, for some pace and swing. Indian batters will fire now hopefully, with a better warm up. England should not be complacent by thrashing india, and should be on more alert, for India's bounce back.

  • Partish on July 27, 2011, 17:49 GMT

    It was a very professional performance from Eng- cant blame them if India was down to 10 men.Exactly how they do in football, when 1 team is down to 10 men the opposition raises its game and hammers home the advantage. Bhajji is being bashed and prob rightly so, since he has lost a bit of his effectiveness. Swann was bowling on the same pitch and was far more effective in putting pressure from his end. The batting line up that India has, I have no doubt that it will come good on this tour, the real concern for me is the bowling, I cant see the Indian attack with 4 bowlers, consistently dismissing Eng. Dhoni should eitherconsider a 5 bowler strategy and play with 6 batsmen. He should play a 3-2 combination & that will bring A Mishra into play OR he should just Mishra in place of Harbhajan as Mishra seems to have more variations and Eng dont play spin well historically.Dhoni should also just forget the conditions and bat 1st irrespective. Remember Durban recently and what happened to SA?

  • Muthuvel on July 27, 2011, 14:25 GMT

    SA beat India with an innings to spare last year, Eng beat us here pretty bad. No team can win all the time, but if india is indeed no 1 then they can not depend on few cricketers and they can not be under prepared for important test series'. India is definitly not or will not be considered as ,the first among equals here, we are No 3 with SA and Eng sharing the top position if we loose this series.

  • Peter on July 27, 2011, 12:33 GMT

    Have to agree Sambit. They also have Bresnan, Finn & Onions waiting int he wings who would all be just as incisive. Let's face it, these are golden times for English cricket. Will it last? Of course not, but for now, they are the ONE! For all you Indian supporters out there bemoaning what went wrong etc etc etc, imagine if you will, what the scoreline would have been had England held onto their catches? Your aging legends have done a magnificent job holding your side together for this long, but father time waits for no-one.

  • Amit on July 27, 2011, 12:32 GMT

    We all know a Test Series in England is going to be difficult.. And that's what Test cricket is all about.. Every element of the touring team is tested.. playing in different conditions, mental strength of the team, ability to conquer challenges such as losing your strike bowler or batsmen to injuries. It is a test to the core of each individual.. I'm afraid India has simply failed the many tests in the 1st Test! No excuses! Lets hope that they can move on and bounce back for the remaining series.. after all Lord's was the flattest pitch out of the 4..

  • Powderdubdub on July 27, 2011, 12:04 GMT

    Even if England secure the top position in the ICC ranking, it wont last very long as they will start losing test series as soon as the play in the sub continent and Sri Lanka.

  • Dummy4 on July 27, 2011, 11:55 GMT

    This could easily be the best bowling line up in today's test cricket and the best ever for england...

  • Shiladitya on July 27, 2011, 11:12 GMT

    @EverybodylovesSachin - Evidently you didn't only skip the highlights but didn't watch the match either. Tremlett put in a very solid effort and definitely caused more trouble for the batsmen than the wickets column shows. I lost count of the number of times he beat Tendulkar and even Dravid, and he got genuine edges from them which, with a little luck, would have ended up in the slips. This might have been an ordinary game to you, but for a huge amount of people, it was a very good match with some excellent performances.

  • Joseph on July 27, 2011, 10:52 GMT

    England team was better prepared than Indian, They deseved to be win the Lords Test and Indian fans should accept defeat gracefully.

  • Siroson on July 27, 2011, 5:52 GMT

    ALL INDIAN FANS, I want you to understand one thing. India lost the match because of BATTING and not BOWLING. India had a chance to save the match at-least but they couldn't. Don't tell me it was because of injury to Gambir and Sachin, they got the starts and dug in and then lost their wickets. And don't tell me because of BATTING ORDER din't Dhoni came at different order in WC Final. He says he don't want to give EXCUSES and BLAMED everything as possible as he could.

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