India v England, 4th Test, Nagpur, 3rd day December 15, 2012

Summit in sight but Bresnan running out of puff

England will probably need to bat four sessions to secure a series win but their cause has not been helped by Tim Bresnan's continued poor form

Although England fought back in the final hour in Nagpur to take four India wickets and regain some control of a Test they need only draw to ensure a series win, their bowling attack, not for the first time recently, appeared to be a man short during the 198-run association between MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli.

Tim Bresnan, England's second seamer, endured a chastening day. Perhaps it is harsh to judge a man by his performance on such a track - this remains a desperately poor Test wicket - but it was hard to avoid the conclusion that Bresnan no longer looks like an effective performer at this level. It was not just that he lacked pace - that is not a huge issue on this surface - but that he drifted on to the batsmen's legs or pitched short noticeably more often than any of his colleagues.

Thirteen months ago, Bresnan looked to be at the start of a long international career after producing valuable performances in the Ashes and against India. England won the first 13 Tests in which he played and, at that stage, he possessed a Test bowling average of 25.46 and a Test batting average of 40.22.

But an an elbow injury necessitated surgery in December 2011 and, despite his best efforts, he has been unable to recover that bit of nip that made him such a valuable member of the side. Since his return he averages 55.43 with the ball and, since the start of the series with South Africa, that rises to an eye-watering 210 runs per wicket. Perhaps due to diminishing confidence, his batting has also fallen away and, in 2012, he is averaging just 17.14.

It is hard to understand what he did between Ahmedabad and Nagpur that justified his recall. While Steven Finn and Stuart Broad are absent with injuries, Graham Onions, in particular, must wonder why he was brought on the tour. There were also other options with the England Performance Programme - Stuart Meaker, in particular - who could easily have been called up. There is a great deal of affection and respect towards Bresnan in the England camp but it is becoming hard to ignore his dip in form.

Bresnan may still have a role to play with the bat in this game. While India did not start the day in a great position, Virat Kohli and MS Dohni played the hand they were dealt perfectly. The fact that both demonstrated the discipline to reign in their natural, aggressive game was testament to their dedication and maturity and while Dhoni may be disappointed not to reach his century, his sadness should be more than assuaged by the knowledge that he has revived his side's chances of squaring the series.

If England do hold on, or even win, it may prove once again that their superior fitness and fielding made the difference. Alastair Cook's direct hit to run-out Dhoni was another example of the difference between the sides: England have now conjured three crucial run-outs in India's last three innings.

Ultimately England will probably have to bat for four sessions to ensure they win the series. It should not prove beyond them on this pitch. But it should not have proved beyond them to save the Test at The Oval on a flat track or win the Test at Abu Dhabi when chasing a small total. Remember the wobble in Kolkata, too.

One thing is certain, though: when they set off for this tour almost two months ago, they would have jumped at the chance to bat four sessions to win the series. They are in sight of the summit, but have one last, tough climb ahead.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sharon on December 17, 2012, 6:35 GMT

    @Shanmuga Subramanian on (December 16 2012, 03:29 AM GMT). You talk in your comment... "A English writer imagining that batting 3 or 4 sessions would be easy for England :D..Come day 4..and you will see how England fall like 9 pins".. Well @Shanmuga Subramanian now that England have reached 240/3 at lunch on day 5 having batted 3 1/2 sessions losing only 3 wicket - how did you feel about your prediction now. Time for people like you to pipe down. "fall like 9 pins"....LOL

  • Vivek on December 16, 2012, 13:26 GMT

    @ Jose Puliampatta: a good idea in principle but judging by how Sehwag looked while he was fielding in the slip, I think he wasn't tried because he probably didn't have enough energy to walk up to the bowling crease, let alone release a delivery. Old and tired-looking. India needs a new breed of player.

  • jason on December 16, 2012, 12:55 GMT

    bresnan is an honest trier? hes a bit more than that. prior to Finn he was the paciest of the england bowlers on many occasions. also as the third seamer, generally, he has the happy knack of taking the crucial wickets very very often. his batting i think is over ratted as some have said. at 27 he needs a few county games to get his body back in cricket shape then have another look at him. i think he was pulled back in a bit early. i think onions should be given a run but then again there is a lot of bodies that could be picked for england bowling duties around about now. as far as allrounders go well why search for something that isnt there! 6 top bats and 4 top bowlers and a keeper that can average near a batsman will win most games.

  • Simon on December 16, 2012, 9:43 GMT

    Bresnan is still a young fellow, so how people can be declaring his career over is beyond me. He is a good player, and good potential as a bowling all-rounder. His recent performances have been disappointing, and the best England can do is drop him for the time being and allow him to find his feet at 1st class level before putting him back in the test team. Remember, very few players return from surgery without missing a beat. Even a legend like Shane Warne took a while to return to his best after his major operations.

  • Jason on December 16, 2012, 8:39 GMT

    @si baker, I'm sorry Morgan is Not a test player, hes far too loose outside the offstump, and ver weeak against the moving ball which he'll face in spades in NZ. tremlett isnt match fit as hes not played all season, Woakes might do well, and I agree about root, Taylor and Bairstow and I think Bell will get a tour off as he I believe he was supposed to be rotated out against india this year, but with the KP chaos was drafted back.

  • Jem on December 16, 2012, 8:10 GMT

    @Shanmuga Subramanian on (December 16 2012, 03:29 AM GMT) - are you being serious?? I hoped this idiotic prejudice had pretty much melted away since England have taken control of the series by the scruff of the neck but it seems not. Had it not been for umpire Dharmasena's two dreadful decisions to saw off Alastair Cook in both innings, the series would have been as good as over by now. Hopefully England can go on to win it 3-1 so we can put the anti-English comments to bed once and for all and get back to genuine, thoughtful and unbiased comments from supporters of all sides. (Please print, cricinfo!)

  • Dummy4 on December 16, 2012, 7:26 GMT

    For all his heart, Bresnan's a busted flush, I'm afraid. Time to give him, Broad, Trott, Bell & Patel a rest during the New Zealand tour, & take Morgan, Bairstow, Taylor, Root, Meaker, Woakes & Tremlett (if fit) or Onions instead. I'd like to see Joe Root tried as an opener in NZ, with Nick Compton slotting in at Three - which is where he customarily bats for Somerset - & Chris Woakes as a genuine all-rounder at Six or Seven in a five-man attack.

  • Dummy4 on December 16, 2012, 7:09 GMT

    Cook 1 runs on 52 balls. I hope end of the test cricket is near.

  • Ramakrishnan on December 16, 2012, 5:06 GMT

    Tim Bresnan is the weakest link in the current english line up. His bowling looks mediocre and his batting not any better than a No.11 batsman. The decision to leave out the remaining fit players is perplexing. Similarly, on a tour to India under the captaincy of Graham Gooch, their best batsman Mike Atherton was not considered for selection in any test in the series.

  • Dummy4 on December 16, 2012, 3:29 GMT

    A English writer imagining that batting 3 or 4 sessions would be easy for England :D..Come day 4..and you will see how England fall like 9 pins..

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