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England refrained from verbal aggression. And their performance did not dip as a consequence. Indeed, you might argue that the added discipline, control and focus actually rendered them more effective
George Dobell at Old Trafford
August 7, 2014
Highlights: Broad wreaks havoc on India with 6 for 25
Ronan Keating almost certainly was not thinking about the England seam attack when he sang "You say it best when you say nothing at all." But, as India collapsed against some high quality swing bowling at Emirates Old Trafford, it seemed an apposite description nevertheless.
Despite all the swearing and snarling unleashed at Trent Bridge, in particular, James Anderson and co. expressed themselves so much more effectively here. Allowing their bowling to do the talking, they exploited some helpful conditions and, perhaps, some helpful batting, to strike a blow that may well define this series.
That does not mean England's cricket lacked aggression or intent. A packed slip cordon and fuller length spoke far more eloquently than any poor language or playground posturing that we might have seen earlier in the series.
And, while Anderson did not actually speak after taking the wicket of Ravi Jadeja, it seems safe to assume that a body language expert would have interpreted him with a handful of asterisks: something along the lines of "You *** **** *** you ******* **** **** with a cucumber."
The point is, Anderson did not say anything. And his performance did not dip as a consequence. Indeed, you might argue that the added discipline, the added control of his temper and the added focus upon the job that matters - harnessing the conditions and dismissing batsman - actually rendered him more effective. It is not simply that he does not need the overt aggression he allegedly showed towards Jadeja in Nottingham, it is that it might actually distract him from the job in hand.
Conditions here were probably no more helpful than they had been on the first morning at Lord's. But, while on that occasion England squandered the potential advantage by bowling too short and being seemingly more interested in intimidating the batsmen than dismissing them, here Anderson and Stuart Broad bowled with the skill and maturity required to damage a fragile India top-order. No side has suffered more ducks in a Test innings and the decline from 8 for 0 to 8 for 4 just 13 deliveries later was, Broad said later, one of the more dramatic passages of play he had witnessed.
While Broad finished with the eye-catching figures - his 6 for 25 were the best figures for an England bowler against India in England since Fred Trueman claimed 8 for 31 on this ground in 1952 - it was Anderson who was most impressive. The delivery that dismissed Murali Vijay, a full ball delivered from wide of the crease that demanded a stroke but swung away sharply to take the edge, was a long way along the spectrum towards unplayable. And if the ball that dismissed Virat Kohli, an outswinger that might just have been left, was slightly less impressive, it was still a fine delivery to a man with an obvious frailty outside off stump and who had been set-up by inswingers. Anderson has now dismissed Kohli three times in the series at a cost of only two runs in total.
Later Anderson beat Jadeja with one that swung back, and produced a beauty to take Ashwin's edge, but saw Jos Buttler put down the chance. They were exactly the sort of conditions - and exactly the sort of bowling - that touring sides fear when they play in England. England, at last, benefited from home conditions.
Broad lent excellent support and afterwards accepted that the key to England's success had not been to get carried away by the extra pace in the wicket.
"They were pretty much as good bowling conditions as you can get," Broad said. "I was actually a bit disappointed when we lost the toss as I thought it would prove to be a big toss to win. Australia scored 500 last year and then the pitch was a bit up and down on the final day. We don't want to bat last on that wicket, because there are already little signs of uneven bounce.
"But we got a bit lucky with the overhead conditions. It clouded over and the ball was swinging nicely. There was bounce in the wicket as well. It's hard batting against swing when you know you can be hit on the head.
"But it wasn't just about the conditions. We bowled well and we hit a good length. We knew we could not be too encouraged by the bounce. It felt hard to get people bowled or leg before because of the bounce, but we still challenged the front feet of the batsmen and we took our catches. It's easy on bouncier wickets to fall into the trap of bowling too short.
"It's not like the Indian batsmen will be kicking themselves for playing poor shots. The all received decent balls. They certainly had to play at those deliveries. But it was a pretty good Test wicket and very different when the sun came out. It seemed to take all the zip out of the wicket."
Perhaps Broad enjoyed a little luck. He saw Ashwin pull to deep square leg and MS Dhoni slog to the same area. And if he earned the wicket of Cheteshwar Pujara with one that drew a stroke but nipped away, then he might consider the wicket of Gautam Gambhir, unable to deal with the bounce of the new ball, surprisingly soft. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, meanwhile, left a straight one and Pankaj Singh might be considered one of the least impressive batsman in world cricket.
But this was not a perfect performance by England. The two younger seamers, Chris Woakes and Chris Jordan, were far less threatening than their senior colleagues, while Buttler endured an uncomfortable day with the gloves and, as well as conceding 10 byes - the fourth highest contribution in the India innings - and put down that chance offered by Ashwin when he had scored 25.
But such flaws can be tolerated so long as the senior players deliver. And, to some extent, they must be expected as young and inexperienced players come into the side and learn their trade at the highest level. Jordan, at least, showed signs of improvement, though Woakes - as good as he was luckless in Southampton - looked a little anxious as his wait for another Test wicket went on. His current bowling average - 222 - is monstrously harsh, but his line was not quite tight enough to exploit the conditions.
But he might reflect that both Anderson and Broad endured such days early in their careers. In terms of learning from mistakes and harnessing conditions, he could hardly want for better role models.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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