India v England, 2nd Test, Mumbai, 4th day November 26, 2012

One of England's best

Battling alien conditions, poor form and a disastrous record, England produced a performance to rank alongside their greatest of recent times

Like Francis Drake sailing into Cadiz harbour and "singeing the King of Spain's beard", England overcame all the odds to inflict this defeat upon India. To win so resoundingly in these conditions, on this pitch, having lost the first Test and the toss is a remarkable achievement. In years to come, this will be rated as one of England's finest overseas performances. If MS Dhoni or Sachin Tendulkar had beards, they would surely be smouldering.

Going into this game, England had only won one Test in India since winning the 1984-85 series and, excluding Bangladesh, just two of their last 23 Tests in Asia since the series victory in Sri Lanka of 2000-2001. They had lost five of the six Tests played in Asia this year and, having been defeated by nine wickets in Ahmedabad, had shown few signs of improvement. Their batting against spin, in particular, has been a recurring cause of pain.

Recognising England's frailties, India prepared accordingly. They stuffed their side with spinners, they demanded a used pitch that turned throughout and, as if that was not enough, they secured first use of it by winning the toss. Everything was stacked against England. Yet they prevailed.

Through the excellence of Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen with the bat and the excellence of their spinners, Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann, England achieved victory within 10 sessions of play. It was like Usain Bolt taking on Michael Phelps in the 100m freestyle and winning. Despite their recent reputation as home-track bullies, England have actually enjoyed some notable overseas victories in recent years: Adelaide, Colombo and Durban among them.

It was fitting that the result was sealed by MS Dhoni allowing the ball to go for four byes. For all the excellence of England, this India performance was littered by self-inflicted injury. The manner in which Zaheer Khan was dismissed on the fourth morning, swinging wildly against the spin, amounted to a dereliction of duty. Against an opponent who has been tortured by spin all year, India should have looked to eek out a 100-run lead. Instead they seemed to lack the will to grind it out. It may be worth noting that Dhoni has conceded 31 byes in this series. His opposite number, Matt Prior, has conceded seven.

The result sets up the series intriguingly. Before this game, all the pressure was on England. Much of it will now have transferred to an India side who were expected to win with ease. Instead of the media focusing on England's problems against spin, they will focus on India's issues: Sachin Tendulkar's decline; R Ashwin taking his wickets at 59.66 apiece; their increasing reliance on Cheteshwar Pujara. A few in the India dressing room - and not just players - are fighting for their careers.

By winning in such conditions, England should have proved to themselves that they can overcome the challenges presented by good-quality spin bowling in Asian conditions.

Perhaps attention will also turn to the umpiring. Aleem Dar, in particular, has earned the right to patience and respect through years of excellence. But there is no getting away from the fact that there have been several awful decisions in this series. The bat-pad decision against Zaheer Khan in the first innings was embarrassing; the failure to see that Pragyan Ohja had hit the ball to backward short-leg in the second was worse. Sooner or later, a Test will be ruined by such errors. To allow television viewers across the world to see these errors while the umpires are denied such help is simply perverse and does nothing for the credibility of the sport.

It would be wrong for England to conclude they have resolved their issues against spin, though. While they should be encouraged by successive totals of 400, their joy will be tempered in the knowledge that the bounce available in Mumbai played into their hands. Panesar in particular bowled around 4mph faster than the Indian spinners, gained extra bounce and benefited from natural variation when the ball skidded on. On slow, low pitches, those benefits will vanish.

But whatever surface awaits in Kolkata and Nagpur, it can be guaranteed that England will field their two specialist spinners. Not since 1958, when Jim Laker and Tony Lock shared 19 wickets at Leeds, have England spinners taken such a haul in a Test. It was a performance that leaves India's tactic of preparing turning tracks in tatters. They can no longer presume that their batsmen will deal with the pitches better. Panesar, with his best Test figures of 11 for 210, has now claimed four five-wicket hauls in his last four Tests. He may be the best, and most unfortunate, understudy in cricket.

It is worth remembering where Swann and Panesar learned their cricket. Northamptonshire are currently struggling on and off the pitch and are sometimes used as an example of the sort of first-class county that could be amalgamated into a larger neighbour. Hopefully the success of two former players will remind the sceptics of the huge contribution such counties make to English cricket.

The pair deserved this success. The fact that England had never previously won a Test in which they played together has often be used against them, but it is misleading. Swann and Panesar bowled England into match-winning positions in the UAE only to see their batsmen squander the chance of victory.

And the batting remains the main area of concern for England in this series. The order still looks overly reliant on Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen and Prior; the new catching cordon - though better in the second innings - remains a work in progress; and Stuart Broad, almost irrelevant in this game, is surely on the verge of being dropped should Steven Finn have recovered in time for the third Test.

But for now, England can rejoice in a fine performance. By winning in such conditions, England should have proved to themselves that they can overcome the challenges presented by good-quality spin bowling in Asian conditions. They should, at last, have banished the demons of the UAE.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Richard on November 28, 2012, 9:43 GMT

    @Randyoz - aww come on , is that the best you can do , mate ? Battle of the minnows ? What about some ' South Africa A ' stuff , eh ? Or a soupcon of ' United XI ' ? Perhaps you're right , who would prefer to watch a 10 wicket victory rather than a draw? I guess that your heart isn't really in it at the moment , i wonder why ....

  • Shanmugam on November 27, 2012, 23:06 GMT

    @SamuelH, Agree to some extent that Samit Patel was more comfortable at the crease than Bairstow but comfort comes with more time at the crease. However, Bairstow was given out in unfortunate circumstances. I believe he offers more than Samit Patel as a test player not just in India but anywhere. I would probably stop watching cricket, even shoot myself:-), if they pick Samit for any test matches outside the sub-continent. He offers very little with the bat in these conditions and nothing at all with the ball. I would rather play someone like Bairstow who is an all-round better test player than Samit Patel. Morgan is worth a shout because he has experience playing against India even though it was in England. He has played in the IPL and is familiar with these conditions. He failed against Pakistan in the UAE like many others but being a left-hander, I think he will fare well against Ojha who looks the most potent of the Indian bowlers.

  • Cricinfo on November 27, 2012, 22:03 GMT

    Yes great comeback from england but I doubt they can repeat such a performance in the rest of the series. My prediction for the series is either a drawn 2-2 series or a 2-1 win for india, I can't see england taking the series. Reason being for england only 3-4 players have performed so far. In India's case as well, there have been 4-5 performers but the key difference is that the non-performers in indian team so far like srt, kohli, yuvraj, dhoni are the ones you know are eventually going to come good in home conditions but the non-performers for england like trott, bairstow, patel, even bell simply don't look comfortable on these pitches and it doesn't look like they will come up with big innings in the remaining 2. If both Cook and Pietersen fail in any particular innings, eng could likely fold for under 200 like in the 1st innings in ahmedabad. A drawn series would be quite creditable though for england.

  • John on November 27, 2012, 21:03 GMT

    @SamuelH on (November 26 2012, 23:44 PM GMT) I'd say Broad is holding back because of constant injury probs which is no use to England. Re Finn , I think I'd risk him if he's bowling at full pace and feeling good. I think he adds some extra pace which is something Onions and Bres don't have. If the pitch is similar to the 1st 2 tests our 2nd seamer might be a bit of a passenger anyway. Shame we don't have a 3rd spinner out there. Re your Bell comms - "Style over substance" maybe sums him up these days

    @davidpk on (November 27 2012, 13:42 PM GMT) I think a 5 man attack with 3 spinners in it would be good or ever a 4 man attack with 3 spinners but we've not got another frontline spinner out there so although I nearly always champion a 5 man attack I feel that a 3rd seamer would be wasted if conditions are similar for 3rd test

  • John on November 27, 2012, 21:03 GMT

    @Maxyboy_123 on (November 27 2012, 09:33 AM GMT) I don't have a strong opinion either way but if I was in charge I'd probably not change the batting line up. The one thing which Bumble pointed out is that he's a decent close fielder but it would seem harsh on JB if he was ousted after just one failure and that a controversial one too. Might be different if Bell was in hot form before he went home

    @kevinpp24 on (November 27 2012, 11:54 AM GMT) Compton is a model pro and a great example of what can happen to a player who is naturally not as talented as others if you work hard on your game. I have mixed feelings about him as a Somerset fan because I obviously want him to do well but at the same time if he succeeds for England Somerset will lose a vital player for 2013

  • ian on November 27, 2012, 16:54 GMT

    An interesting exercise is to pool the players from both teams & pick your 1st XI. There really isn't too much debate, IMO. I suggest that the following would be the best composite XI: Cook, Sehwag, Pujara, KP, possibly SRT (but not by much), Patel (or perhaps Ashwin, but only for for his batting), Prior, Swann, Anderson, Panesar & Ojha. I realise that it is a little unbalanced & some players are batting out of their accustomed positions, but it just about stacks up as a side for Mumbai if there was another match there next week: 7 England players, 4 Indian. This gives an indication of the perceived balance between the teams, but there is no doubt that five of the Engand players, would, I think be chosen, even by the most fervent Indian supporter. England supporters would only pick Pujara & Ojha as certainties, & possibly Sehwag in preference to an improving Nick Compton. I wonder whether this mix 'n' match XI will look very different by the end of the series?

  • david on November 27, 2012, 13:42 GMT

    not sure in india that you need a 5 man attack.when you play 2 spinners who will bowl a minimum of 30 overs each and well i wont bore you with the math. 90 overs aday in india were 2 spinners play its easy pessy.i cannot understand when india go in with 3 but could also say 4 , beats logic to me.

  • Amjad on November 27, 2012, 13:14 GMT

    @landl47: While I believe Eng fans have earned the right to brag and it indeed was a remarkable victory but mixing limited overs cricket with Test performance would be going overboard. Test and the other formats are different, thats the ABC of cricket. Did not expect such a statement from you to begin with. Truth is that Eng won 4 ODI's and 2 T20 but lost all the test, thats as dismal as it gets. I dont think an English fan or a Test cricket fan will ever settle for that. However things have changed since then, one game apiece against SL and Ind so far, not so bad in alien conditions but leave UAE tour out of it. Pak bowlers are a different kind and way lethal for this English side.

  • Dummy4 on November 27, 2012, 12:50 GMT

    Wise words about DRS. It's a massive shame that India refuse to use it 'until it is 100%'. Well,it's never gonna be 100%, but surely the level of accuracy is better than the 70%-80% we get from umpires without such technology. If it was a smaller board refusing to use it, I'm pretty sure that wouldn't be allowed by the ICC.

  • Usman on November 27, 2012, 12:49 GMT

    @kevinpp24 No doubt you outplayed us (Pakistan) completely in the ODI's! I hope England can keep this consistency up against India as they got a really big Summer next year.

    How do you think the pitch in Calcutta will be? Really looking forward to the next match!

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