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Despite losing Chris Tremlett to injury a dominant England surged to a 2-0 lead and must now consider the fantastic opportunity that lies in front of them
August 1, 2011
Lord's was a "near perfect" display in the words of Andrew Strauss, but England's crushing victory at Trent Bridge to go 2-0 against the No. 1 team in the world was, ironically because of its faults, an even better performance. There is an aura developing around this England team. They are finding ways to win from difficult positions, not just edge their way to victory but change 50-50 scenarios into overwhelming successes. It's the type of cricket Australia used to play.
At various junctures throughout the first two-and-a-half days this match was on a knife-edge and it was England who won the major moments. The final session on the first day when the last two wickets added 97; the same time on the second when Stuart Broad took his hat-trick; the first session on Saturday when England still trailed, then when India took the second new ball.
Had any of those gone India's way so, too, would crucial momentum in the match. It's how Australia stayed on top for so long. Often they would dominate from the start, as England did at Lord's, but sometimes their opponents would provide a stern contest only for Australia's greater belief and depth to shine through. That's why England have the makings of a No. 1 team. One more victory in this series will put them there.
Strauss was keen to stress after Lord's that there was room for improvement and did so again here. He had more of a point about this match, where England were 124 for 8 and dropped three catches, yet the win was by an even greater margin. India had problems - an injured Harbhajan and a reshuffled batting line-up the biggest of them - but they were brushed aside by a team gaining some fearsome, ruthless momentum.
To emphasise the current health of the England team you need to look no further than the star of the fourth day at Trent Bridge. Tim Bresnan wouldn't have played if Chris Tremlett hadn't suffered a hamstring injury; he ended the game with 90 and a career-best 5 for 48. All-round performances don't come much better and he produced it on "Yorkshire Day" for good measure. He did more than a passing impression of Tremlett, too, as he roughed up Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh with short balls to make them seem like novices.
Then there was the skill to switch immediately to the inswinger to remove MS Dhoni. Bresnan is now a quality Test bowler, far removed from the youngster who was plucked out of county cricket by Duncan Fletcher in 2006. The confidence he gained from his performances at Melbourne and Sydney during the Ashes has not diminished despite an injury-hit first half to the season.
We'll never know what would have happened at the start of this summer against Sri Lanka if all England's bowlers had been fit because Bresnan was the man in possession, not Stuart Broad after his own injury problems. Now both have been matchwinners in the same Test. Bresnan may not play at Edgbaston so he must be the best reserve in the world game.
It would be cruel to leave him out, but if Tremlett is fit then the only way Bresnan plays is if England finally bite the bullet over a five-man attack. Now, though, is as good a time as ever to try. Jonathan Trott's injury could give them the perfect window. Bresnan and Broad are scoring runs, while Matt Prior is in the form of his life.
Clearly, England's current balance is serving them well and in English conditions there is no pressing need for a fifth bowler but in the coming months and years they will come across some flat pitches. It feels as though the next level for this team is to at least know they can play with a different balance even if it is only used on occasions rather than as the norm. Still, if Trott is fit they are unlikely to make that call in this series.
Given how key he has been to England's rise it is remarkable to see the scale of their victory with such a quiet display from Graeme Swann, who struggled after a blow to his left hand in the first innings. He had one of his worst matches with the ball, going at more than six-an-over in the first innings, and the closest he came to a wicket was when Sachin Tendulkar nearly failed to clear Kevin Pietersen at mid-on. Still, he played his part, because his 28 in the stand with Broad changed the complexion of match.
There are some batsmen also having a quiet series. Alastair Cook's record-breaking form has been snapped by swing, Strauss is making starts but not converting them and Eoin Morgan, despite his 70 in the second innings, is vulnerable against the movement. Throw in a rare lean match for Trott and it adds further weight to the performances of those who won the match.
England will expect India to come back strongly having regrouped themselves, but nothing will worry this team. In the last two weeks they have set themselves a new level yet will still be striving to get even better. A couple of hours after the match finished those players who use Twitter were busy planning their evening in Nottingham. The short break before Edgbaston will allow them to celebrate properly what they have achieved in the first half of this series. It may also be a chance to consider the fantastic opportunity that lies in front of them.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
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