England v India, 3rd Investec Test, Ageas Bowl, 3rd day July 29, 2014

England rediscover their swing

Instead of the joyless England side we have seen in recent times we saw a team with renewed vigour and belief and they go into the final two days with a chance of forcing victory

Play 05:25
#politeenquiries: Is Kohli no more than a flat track bully?

It was the sort of draining day on which tempers can flare and disagreements brew. It was the sort of pitch on which seamers can lose heart and sides - particularly those without a win in almost a year - can lose confidence. And India have the sort of batting line-up which can make bowlers wish they had become plumbers or matadors or, most of all, batsmen.

But despite the climbing temperatures and the rising total, England's bowlers produced one of their best performances of the summer on the third day at the Ageas Bowl. And, whatever the bald figures on the scorecard might show, England's senior bowlers led the way admirably.

It was not perfect. Perhaps James Anderson could have pitched the ball up another six inches; perhaps a couple of tough chances might have been taken in the slips and certainly Chris Jordan looks nervous upon his return to the team - dropping a man after two Tests can do that.

But on another flat pitch offering little to bowlers of any description, England can feel well satisfied that they go into the final two days of the game with a chance of forcing victory.

But the game is not entirely safe. With England reluctant to enforce the follow-on even if it is an option, Alastair Cook will face an intriguing test of his captaincy if he has to make a declaration on the fourth afternoon. His bowlers are keen to put their feet up for a minimum of 40 overs on day four.

Cook will know his team needs the best part of four sessions to bowl out India on this surface. But he will also know that setting such a proficient ODI side anything less than 400 in around 120 overs is something of a risk. However much England need the victory, the thought of going 2-0 down in this series is likely to have a sobering effect.

Such issues can wait. After three days, England can feel encouraged that, for the first time since the change of coach, there appeared to be signs of progress in the development of the new-look team.

While it would be wrong to read too much into a couple of days of cricket, it does seem that a slight change of approach - a temperamental as much as a tactical change - has seen England playing a more positive, more effective brand of cricket.

Certainly that was the view of Stuart Broad. On the day that Broad, who bowled immaculately, and Anderson, who bowled with pace and skill, became one of a select group of fast bowlers to take 500 Test wickets in partnership with one another.

Many regard them as the third such fast-bowling partnership to reach the landmark pair after Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh and Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis - although it is a somewhat notional statistic and it can also be contended that Jacques Kallis should also be included twice for his partnerships both with Shaun Pollock and Makhaya Ntini.

Instead of the joyless England side we have seen in recent times - a side that have sometimes seemed resigned to spending several sessions in the field even as they mark their run-outs for the first time - we saw a team with renewed vigour and belief. We saw a team with a short-leg instead of a square leg. We saw a team retain a full slip cordon instead of a third man and sweeper and we saw a team use the short ball, not so much to avoid being driven, but as a shock delivery to prevent the batsmen simply propping forward.

True, the results were not immediately apparent. But to take seven wickets in a day on this pitch was no mean effort. With Anderson gaining swing throughout the day and using the short ball effectively, Broad maintaining a McGrath-like line and length and Chris Woakes, improved in discipline and pace, adding reliable support, pressure built upon the Indian batsmen leading to what might appear, out of context, some inexplicable strokes. The accumulative effects of scoreboard pressure and demanding bowling should never be underestimated.

Broad also credited the advice of the coach, Peter Moores, with inspiring the revived performance.

"Before this Test, Mooresy came to a few of us and said 'just go and express yourself'," Broad said. "He said 'Don't worry about having to take responsibility, just go and play, like it's your first Test'. I think that's shone through a little bit. I know it freed me up a little bit. Everyone was having a laugh; everyone had smiles on their faces and I think that showed in our cricket. We kept the energy up throughout the whole day. We were brilliant."

It is not surprising that England had lost confidence in recent times. The disappointment - shellshock, even - of their Ashes defeat and the departure of several players who had become fixtures in the dressing room had sapped some of the belief out of the side. If players as reliable as Jonathan Trott and Matt Prior could fall to the ravages of time and fate, then no one was safe.

But such thoughts had to be banished. And Broad, at least, felt the side were working their way back towards the more positive brand of cricket that earned them success against India in the 2011 series.

"Personally, I am an attacking cricketer and maybe I had fallen into a defensive mindset," Broad explained. "Today was about leaving the past behind and just going and expressing yourself.

"I think maybe the senior players have put too much pressure on themselves after what, since the Durham Test, has been a pretty tough run. Maybe we got a bit uptight.

"We went to Australia and had a tough time of it. Maybe my own mindset had become quite defensive. I had to bowl defensively in Australia and maybe I brought that it into the start of this summer.

"But you saw, I used a short leg today. I had that attacking mindset. I'm at my best when I'm attacking and playing with flair. I'm an attacking player who fell into a defensive mindset thinking square leg will save runs but actually, let's get some wickets."

It was noticeable, too, that Anderson has been a far less vocal cricketer since being charged by the ICC. Gone is the muttering at the batsmen; gone is the posturing; gone is everything other than the skilful bowler with more than 350 Test wickets. It has not rendered his bowling any less potent.

"We're in a great position in this Test," Broad said. "We hope the wicket will deteriorate a little bit. But we created pressure throughout the day and, though it looked as if Moeen Ali picked up his wickets with freebies, I think that was out of the pressure he'd developed. We got our rewards at the end of the day."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Martin on July 31, 2014, 9:00 GMT

    @social_monster09 Get over yourself. I was in Australia for the England Ashes 2013 series and some of the Australian 2013-14 series. Some of my best friends in cricket are Aussies and I can tell you don't know very much about the state of the game there. Australian cricket fans ARE worried about their top athletes and sportsmen NOT going into cricket. Footy and basketball are far more attractive to their youngsters coming through. This has been the case for years and explains why England started winning Ashes series again commencing 2005. Since 2005 there is actually very little young talent coming through into the Australia Test set up. England on the other hand, have a very healthy set up now. Lessons of the past (failure to identify talent early, failure to give opportunity and quality coaching, failure to move on underperforming players, etc) have been learned, and we now have proven talented youngsters (eg Root, Ballance, Moeen) doing well in the team. Bowling is more of a worry.

  • Android on July 31, 2014, 7:31 GMT

    it's simple that team batting second will face heavy difficulty to survive in England pitches..toss plays the major role..though we'll done in trent bridge to pull out a draw..still India can swing pendulum in their way in this match ..patience is the key..

  • Mark on July 31, 2014, 3:41 GMT

    @social_monster09 A 5-0 whitewash next year? The greatest team ever produced in cricket, steve waugh's australian's couldn't manage that; only the west indies have. Clarkes aussies were shocked to complete a 5-0 in australia. Current Australia team are not as good as the windies, nor pontings, waughs, or taylors aussies. Starc, cummins, pattinson, richardson are good talented bowlers in australian conditions, they're also injury prone (shaun tait?) and not been proven overseas. Reece Topley, Tymal mills, Jamie Overton, Matt Dunn, Stuart Meaker, Tom Curren, Steven Finn, Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan, are some back up for Anderson and Broad but all unproven, or yet to prove yet talented. Aus and Eng both have talented young players, but talent doesn't mean class. So steady on there champ, your 5-0 is possible, but you're in cloud cockoo land as boycs would say. Or if you're that confident get on betfair, put your house on it, and hit me back next year from your yacht.

  • Dummy4 on July 30, 2014, 12:17 GMT

    You should consider the mental aspect of this innings though, England bowlers had the cushion of 500+ runs in the board, that added pressure on Indian batsmen with some careless shots bring this end result. India had some promising partnerships (Rahane/Rohit & then Dhoni/Jadeja) but none of them paned out. Looks like things are all working out for England this test, both with batting and bowling.

  • Huw on July 30, 2014, 8:05 GMT

    @social_monster09 - I'm not convinced by your comment. Australia have some young fast bowlers who might be good one day, but the fact remains last year, in England, they didn't perform well. The Ashes was won partly due to the pace and hostility of Mitchell Johnson in the first couple of tests, and partly due to the off-field issues of the England team. Moreover, it was built upon the runs of Brad Haddin (35? 36?) and as opener you have felt obliged to recall Chris Rogers, who is the same age.

    Also, you talk about depth - the best two first class bowlers in England, in terms of average and strike rate, are Graeme Onions and Will Gidman - who can't get into this side (although Onions is injured). Meanwhile, Peter Siddle, worthy bowler though he is and much though I like him, was ineffective in the County Championship this season despite playing on a notoriously bowler friendly wicket (outside tests) at Trent Bridge. When your older batsmen retire, you will have no replacements at all.

  • David on July 30, 2014, 7:42 GMT

    Jimmy and Broady suddenly bowled something like, finally, and have given England their best position of the series so far. Imagine what would have happened if they'd picked too other seamers in support who were anything like. Say Liam Plunkett and Ben Stokes. Or even Steve Finn...

  • Yaswanth on July 30, 2014, 7:33 GMT

    Now one should really appreciate Indian batting line up here!! Even with Anderson and Broad at their best India has scored 300 runs lost 7 wickets on day3 and out of those 7, 2 wickets went to Moeen Ali(which can easily be avoided). Well bowled England and well batted India

  • Shashank on July 30, 2014, 7:26 GMT

    @Landl47- Yes all young talents on earth are in England. Happy now!! Don't compare Aus players with Eng players. Aus players are much more talented than Eng players. This is your frustration that spilled out through your comment. Aus have many world class bowlers as Pattinson, Siddle, Starc, Cummins, Richardson & many more. First try to win a test against Indians. In this form another 5-0 whitewash is waiting for England next year. And after the retirement of Anderson in 2-3 years everybody knows the depth of your teams bowling.

  • Rahul on July 30, 2014, 6:14 GMT

    England must bat again even if they bowl India out with a lead of over 200. Presuming that there are 80 overs left in the day's play after India is bowled out, England must target 40 overs for their batsmen at 5 runs an over, with a cautious approach in the first 10, adventurous in the next 20 and bang bang in the next 10. They bat deep and can afford to be 130 for 5 in 30 overs and yet core 200. They must leave India to chase 400-odd runs. If India chase the score, they deserve to win. But knowing the way Dhoni approaches a match, he will ask his batsmen to down the shutters early. There lies England's best chance to win. There will be deterioration in pitch, seamer will have some rest. There will be two new balls. Bowlers will run hard for 40 overs today, and after overnight rest, run hard for another 30 overs, and the there is the new ball to encourage them to have a go at India one last time with the new ball.

  • ADITYA on July 30, 2014, 5:21 GMT

    yes....there was no doubt about anderson and broad in the first place..they both are very good bowlers..and now that broad is bowling with vigour again they seem a better attack...but i am amazed to see how perceptions change within a week...england as a unit are far away from a solid attack...with highly off the target chris jordan and pathetic moeen ali...engish cant say they have found their mojo...yes woakes was impressive but has a long way to go..and people might argue that ali has 9 wickets in this series...but he is less than a mediocore bowler..all the wickets he got were genuine batsmen mistakes and mind you he didnt enforce them..he is not even better than yuvraj...talking about the match ..i think yes they must enforce follow on to win the match ..yes there is risk of a draw but u got to take it.Having said that english bowlers might be tired after bowling more than 100 overs..so we might very well see another exciting draw.

  • No featured comments at the moment.