India v England, 1st Test, Ahmedabad, 2nd day November 16, 2012

Patel fronts up to England failings

Maybe they are in denial or maybe he was simply in an impossible position, but there were times when it was hard to remain straight faced when Samit Patel spoke to the media after the second day's play in Ahmedabad.

It was not his laudable faith in his teammates, or his admirable desire to fight from the desperate position in which England find themselves that provoked the raised eyebrows. Both are to his credit. It was the insistence, in the face of all facts, that England were "good players of spin" that was hard to take. For England, with one or two notable exceptions, are not good players of spin. The record does not suggest that. It grabs us by the shoulders and screams in our faces. It has been proved over the last year really rather often and no amount of insistence otherwise will change that. Only an improvement in form will do so.

Patel's explanation for England's struggles in their reply was also grimly amusing. "The ball's harder and I think it spins more when the ball's harder," he explained. And, while there is some truth in that, it ignores the fact that England also had a new ball. In fact they had two of them.

To be fair to Patel, he was in an almost impossible position. Having been kept out in the field for the best part of two days and then lost early wickets, there was little positive to take from proceedings. At least when he spoke of the challenge ahead, his words rang true.

"We have two world-class batsmen at the crease," he said. "Ian Bell is still to come, there's me and there is Matt Prior. There is a lot of batting. There's no question about how long we can bat. We've got the same potential of batting as India have and we've got to keep believing that. I think the telling time will be when the ball gets soft; then we can get in.

"We've put in the hard yards; we know what we can do. Tomorrow, we hope we can show what we're made of. We're going to have to play some good cricket. It's hard work - but that's Test cricket. We have to front up. We can't go anywhere. We've got to stand up and be counted. It's no place for hiding."

Patel was also quite right to acknowledge that India's batsmen had played beautifully. "Sometimes you have to give credit to the batsmen," he said. "Sehwag played outstandingly well and Pujara carried on. Yuvraj played as he does. They're good players of spin. As the Indians showed, if you bat a long time, you can wear teams down. That's what they did. It's something we expected. You lose the toss, and field for two days. We knew what was coming and we're prepared."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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