India v England, 4th Test, Nagpur, 5th day

From fitness to fielding...how England won in India

Few gave England hope after defeat in Ahmedabad, but a few weeks later they left with a famous series victory. There were a few key reasons why they came out on top

Andrew McGlashan

December 17, 2012

Comments: 48 | Text size: A | A

MS Dhoni was run out for 99, India v England, 4th Test, Nagpur, 3rd day, December 15, 2012
MS Dhoni was run out for 99, one example of England's superior fielding © BCCI
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Dhoni's pitch plea

The events in Nagpur, where a dead pitch led to a largely forgettable contest, showed how this series could have gone. After going 1-0 up, the call could have been for flat, low, slow surfaces and India aiming to keep what they had. Instead, MS Dhoni was strongly critical of the Ahmedabad surface so in Mumbai the teams were greeted by a pitch that spun from the start and, crucially, had bounce. Those two factors brought England back into contention but, it was assumed, would also suit the home side. This is where the move backfired. England's spinners were better than India's and they also had two batsmen score hundreds. India really were beaten at their own game. Kolkata also had help for the bowlers, this time quicks as well as spinners, and again Dhoni did not have the quality of bowling to make the most of it. Alastair Cook did.

Flexible thinking

It was blatantly obvious within a very short period of time that Monty Panesar's omission in the first Test was a huge error. Andy Flower later admitted so. Therefore it was a no-brainer that he would be recalled for Mumbai. However, not all England's selection decisions were so cut-and-dried. Stuart Broad was clearly struggling in the first two Tests, but to drop your vice-captain, and a player hugely valued within team, is not an easy decision. But it was spot on. Steven Finn, in his only appearance of the series, took four wickets in Kolkata and showed again what a bright future he has so long as he can stay fit. The boldest call, though, was still to come. A few hours before the final Test started rumours began circulating that a new No. 6 was going to play. Jonny Bairstow? Nope. Eoin Morgan? Nope. It was a debut for Joe Root, by trade an opener for Yorkshire, who had impressed Graham Thorpe and Andy Flower during the tour. He walked in with the score 119 for 4 and a series on the line. His response was an innings way beyond his years as he made 73 off 229 balls. It had a two-fold effect by eating up time and giving England a workable total. The England system, and the selectors, were shown in a very good light.

Fit for purpose

There will be some tired bodies flying home for Christmas, but crucially fatigue never played a part on the field. The way England kept going, often having key successes late in a day, was a credit to all the off-field work that goes in by the large backroom staff the team now carries around. Most notably this occurred in Nagpur, when a late burst of wickets meant India were not able to bat deep into the fourth day and build a lead. James Anderson typified England's fitness, coming in for spell after spell as part of a two-man (and occasionally one-man) pace attack, but Cook's stamina was also incredible.

In the field

Cricket is a three dimensional game and it has long been accepted that the old-school India players are not too keen on the third part - fielding. Plain old hard work can make a team better, but if anything India got worse. England were miles ahead. They produced three crucial run outs; the team work, led by the often derided Samit Patel, to remove Virender Sehwag after a brisk start on Kolkata; Bell's direct hit to shift the in-form Cheteshwar Pujara in the same Test and then Cook's direct hit to remove Dhoni in Nagpur. Coaches often talk about the fielders taking a wicket and this was reward for the hours of training done between Tests and before play. The catching, a significant problem in 2012, also improved after a poor start in Ahmedabad.

Digging in

After a horror first innings, bundled out for 191 on a largely blameless pitch, Cook showed his team-mates that run-scoring was possible in India with some hard graft. They heeded the lesson. Nick Compton's first tour was not prolific, but he and Cook ensured the middle order was not regularly exposed early. England accepted that a run-rate of three-an-over would often be the summit of their ambitions, but knew the value of keeping India in the field for hours on end. Of course, Kevin Pietersen's 186 in Mumbai was a glorious, thrilling exception but it was an innings that could only be played by a unique, and perhaps great, player. He was the only England specialist batsman to have a strike-rate over 50. Most of the time it was head down and dig in. The series finished on such a note, with Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell refusing to yield, facing a combined 616 balls between them.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by JG2704 on (December 20, 2012, 9:45 GMT)

@CricketingStargazer on (December 19 2012, 20:29 PM GMT) TBH , I think too that Swann's contribution has been underrecognised (is that a word?) in this series but I did (as said before) say Swann was IMO our 2nd best player out there and there are arguments for him being our best. The reason I mentioned Monty was that his inclusion had a strong influence in changing the course of the series. However I said at the time (after the 1st test) that Swann was head and shoulders above oor pacers. Hopefully you'll agree with me here. BOTH players were key in our victory and had Monty or Swann been a lone spinner for the whole series we would not have won. Also reckon that if Monty was the lone spinner in the 1st test and Swann came in and made the difference , Swann would have got the plaudits. Agreed?

Posted by CricketingStargazer on (December 19, 2012, 20:29 GMT)

@JG, nothing against you, old chap. I just find it personally annoying that articles like this (and many posters) talk endlessly about Monty's contribution and Swann becomes a loyal side-kick who helps him out a bit at the other end. Much as I have defended Monty in the past, this series has done little to asuage my fear that he is very effective as a shock weapon for a couple of matches, but rarely sees out a series because he gets rumbled quickly. We are lucky to have both Monty and Swann and probably only Pakistan can field such a potent spin attack. In fact, Alec Stewart is suggesting that Australia get presented with dusty, turning tracks next summer as they have a slow bowler, but no spinner (ahem... not sure about doctoring tracks to suit us). The sad fact is that unless we have an unusually hot, dry next summer not even the BCCI would be able to produce raging turners in England and even one spinner will be a luxury at times.

Posted by JG2704 on (December 19, 2012, 17:44 GMT)

@CricketingStargazer on (December 18 2012, 16:02 PM GMT) Not sure if you think I'm showing Monty bias here or not but if you are then please read my comms on the marks out of 10 page where I rate Eng's top 4 Cook,Swann,Monty ,Jimmy in that order. Swann was immense and there was even a case for him being marked our best player. As it was I did not even compare Monty to Swann in this series and if there were comparisons made there isn't much in it bowling wise. Swann has the better average,has taken more wickets and has the better SR.Monty has 2x5 fors comp to Swann's 1 , 1x10 for comp to 0 from Swann and also has a better wickets taken - innings bowled in ratio but why split hairs over it? Both were hugely influential players on the series. I only mentioned Monty because when he came in (in tandem with Swann) we actually looked twice as good bowling wise. PS I have given Swann huge credit throughout and will happily go on record in saying that he will be our biggest loss in the ODI/T20s

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (December 19, 2012, 12:35 GMT)

England long ago, so many years ago, proved themselves fitter and more skillful than teams like Australia and India. They inflicted defeats upon them which pain, especially Australian fans, so much that the shock waves are still reverberating. What a contrast we see when we look at England having the world's best test opener, spinner, seamer plus so much more, and down under all they have to enjoy is the 'Ultimate battle of the Minnows', dubbed by many as the 'Christmas Minnow Big Bash'. The party and good times for England just keep coming, much to the hatred of Australian fans. Big smiles all round :)

Posted by R_U_4_REAL_NICK on (December 19, 2012, 11:18 GMT)

'Flexible thinking' is the one that sealed it for me. I had this series down as 4-0 to India during/after the first game, because England have (in the past) been so reluctant to use two or more front-line spinners in tests. Bringing in Monty was a no-brainer, and to be honest I'd have had Tredwell in the squad from the very start as well. Broad should not even have been brought to India; he was picked on promise alone. Prior doesn't need to be mentioned because he's so reliable and a great player. Cook was a juggernaut, and the other batsmen chipped in when it mattered (eventually, in the case of some...).

Posted by   on (December 19, 2012, 8:29 GMT)

I haven't seen any of the other test playing captains very keen to demand pitches as Dhoni did this time.International venues traditionally behave in the same way barring a very few. It is really shame that England spinners did very well to contain India in Bombay where as Indian spinners have no clue for Pieterson or Cook. You have to perform in any given pitches to your potential.It is a honour to represent your country. Recent tours and the worst defeats suffered have exposed the bowlers and the so called explosive batting (a myth) in local conditions as well. Time for selectors to wake up and select the team for the future and jusitify their selection only on merit.Please remember the game is big than any individuals It is really hurting to see India defeated again and again without showing characters.I really wonder whether our current set of players completely forget the test cricket and more keen on IPL .Five editions of IPL has brought the Indian Test cricket to a grinding halt

Posted by cric_J on (December 19, 2012, 7:54 GMT)

England and SA are probably the fittest sides today.What puzzles me though is why are Broad ,Bresnan and Finn all aged 24 to 26 always ending up with injuries when Jimmy can run in consistently at 142,trouble the batsman and be equally aggressive and spot on even when he clearly struggled on day 3 of the final test.Proud to be a Jimmy fan.

Posted by andash007 on (December 19, 2012, 4:29 GMT)

Good performance by England cricket team. India didn't show the commitment that was required. In my opinion, MSD should leave his captaincy & hand it over to Virat Kohli for all the three formats of the game, as he likes yougsters much!! Sachin should be retained in the team as he is superior to others wrt his experience and abilities that he has gained in these many years. His mere presence boosts India's moral & of course, he would be also supporting for Virat Kohli's captaincy. He can guide new & bright minds, but not to the defensive MSD. Again, I would say India can do better in the upcoming games, if the decision is taken as soon as possible & also, as MSD is tired, he should be given some rest for his betterment.

Posted by A_Vacant_Slip on (December 18, 2012, 20:59 GMT)

I like this article. I like all analysis of why it went the way it went. It reminded me of Ashes 2010/11... At Brisbane the Aussie had us under cosh for most of game but then Cook, Strauss and Trott dug us out to that memorable 517/1. This for me was defining moment of Ashes series because England said "no we will not roll over". At Ahmedhabad India also well on top in same way except here England had not enough in first inning unlike Brisbane. Cook nearly got us out of Ahmedhabad with draw. Although result looked bad England in fact were only 30/40 over from safety. But Cook had made statement here in spite of defeat saying same thing "we/I will not roll over". For this HUGE respect. What a captain and what player this lad is. SO - defining moment of this India tour was Cook hundred at Ahmedhabad, in spite of defeat there. It showed that England were mentally tough and WERE going to fight. When India placed in similar corner at Mumbai/Kolkota they fell apart.

Posted by prabachris on (December 18, 2012, 18:04 GMT)

THE TRUTH: Tendulkar is the highest run getter of all time Tendulkar is highest rungetter in test Tendulkar is highest run getter in one dayers. Tendulker is the only player who played cricket for 22 years. Tendulkar is the highest paid and earning cricketer of all time ..so What else he need to prove to still sit in indian team?he is done enough no one can near him in his records.So what is the stubbornness in him making him to glue his place still in team.he need to move on play for ranji tropies, if he needs to still play cricket and give chance to one of the young indian batsmen dreaming to play for the nation as he dreamed when he entered the team in 1989.

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Andrew McGlashanClose
Andrew McGlashan Assistant Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England's batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.
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