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ESPNcricinfo assesses the performances of the England players who helped them win a series in India for the first time since 1984-85
December 17, 2012
Alastair Cook: A magnificent series. Cook led from the front with three high-class centuries in the first three Tests and ensured that, even after the loss at Ahmedabad, his squad remained positive and disciplined. Inheriting a divided, losing team, he instilled a no-excuses culture and has met every challenge with calm determination. He shrugged off two poor decisions in the final Test to join an illustrious list of successful England captains in India that now reads Jardine, Greig, Gower and Cook. It was, all in all, a deeply impressive response to a potentially daunting first series officially at the helm.
James Anderson: Credited as "the major difference" between the sides by MS Dhoni, Anderson enjoyed an exceptional series which is not fully reflected in the statistics. The 12 wickets he took - that's eight more than the next most successful seamer on either side - on pitches offering little, demonstrated a mastery of skills that few can match. He may not match the potency of Dale Steyn, but no seamer has taken more wickets in 2012 than Anderson's 48 and, while it has not been England's finest year, he has remained a beacon of reliability.
Matt Prior: Selfless and reliable, Prior finished with a batting average of just over 50 and was easily the better of the two keepers on display in difficult conditions. Capable of rebuilding the innings or adding momentum, Prior played the spin as well as anyone and set the tone for a fielding performance that was one of the key differences between the sides. Is there a better batsman-keeper in the Test game at present?
Graeme Swann: The equal top wicket-taker in the series. Swann, unhampered by the elbow problem that plagued him throughout the summer, bowled with control, variation and skill to trouble batsmen renowned as good players of spin. He also batted effectively - he finished the series with a batting average of 32.66 - and remained reliable in the slips.
Monty Panesar: Described by Cook as "a captain's dream", Panesar often operated as a stock bowler and provided control when conditions offered little and threat when offered turn or bounce. His extra pace proved crucial at Mumbai, where he extracted turn and lift not achieved by India's spinners and claimed 11 wickets in the match. He then conceded only 81 runs in 52 overs on a desperately slow wicket in Nagpur to help England achieve a draw. Despite it all, however, it is quite hard to see where Panesar's next Test may be.
Kevin Pietersen: It's no longer hard being him. Fully embraced back into the England fold, Pietersen recovered from a diffident performance at Ahmedabad with a truly great innings in Mumbai that played a huge role in turning the tide of this series. Cheerful and effective in the field, he was noticeably more engaged with his colleagues and welcoming and helpful to new players such as Joe Root. Whatever went before, few could dispute that the England side are far stronger for Pietersen's inclusion.
Steven Finn: Increasingly impressive in the one Test he played, Finn loses marks - perhaps unfairly - only because of his unavailability through injury for three of the games. After suffering a thigh strain in the first warm-up game - a serious blow to England's plans - he suffered a back injury in Kolkata and returned home early. He looked far more effective than Stuart Broad or Tim Bresnan in the brief time he was available, though, and after dismissing MS Dhoni with a brute of a short ball in the first innings in Kolkata, produced a super spell of reverse swing in India's second innings to ensure England remained on top. If he remains fit, England have a gem.
Joe Root: Root justified his surprise selection for the Nagpur Test with a patient contribution that rebuilt England's first innings when it appeared to be falling away. He also demonstrated some pleasing strokes when given the opportunity in the second innings. It would be unwise to read too much into one performance on an unusual surface, but Root did appear to have the technique and temperament to prosper at this level. We are going to hear a lot more about Joe Root.
Jonathan Trott: Started poorly and ended at his wonderfully stubborn best. Dismissed by two good balls in Ahmedabad, he looked devoid of confidence in Mumbai, but fought back with doughty innings in Kolkata and, in particular, Nagpur where his century secured the series victory. He also looked increasingly comfortable standing at slip to the spinners and finished with five catches.
Nick Compton: A solid if unspectacular start. Compton helped Cook post four successive 50 partnerships ensuring decent platforms for England, but he registered only one half-century personally. While he proved his ability to occupy the crease, some doubt remains about his ability to press on and dominate. But he has surely earned further opportunities in New Zealand and can feel satisfied at playing his part in alien conditions in an historic victory.
Ian Bell: A series he salvaged at the last. It started with his bizarre dismissal at Ahmedabad - trying to hit his first delivery over the top - and ended with a century at Nagpur which, flat pitch or not, began with his team under genuine pressure and helped to seal the series. There were other bright moments: his positive innings eased any nerves in the small run chase in Kolkata and he took a fine catch to dismiss Cheteshwar Pujara in Nagpur and produced a direct hit to run out the same batsmen in the second innings in Kolkata. His average in India after three tours - 27.07 - remains disappointing for one so gifted, but Bell remains as likely as most to score crucial runs against Australia next year.
Jonny Bairstow: A tour he may reflect on as a learning experience. Bairstow had only one innings in which he fell victim to a poor decision, though he would accept the stroke, playing across the spin, was somewhat naïve. It was encouraging to witness his warm congratulations for Joe Root when the latter was chosen ahead of him for Nagpur.
Samit Patel: A somewhat unfortunate series. Picked as second spinner in Ahmedabad, his left-arm spin looked increasingly limited - his only wicket came with a full toss - and, once Monty Panesar was recalled, largely irrelevant. He failed to compensate with the bat, averaging just 17.25 in three Tests, but enjoyed no luck. He was unfortunate to be adjudged lbw in both innings in Ahmedabad and engineered the run-out of Virender Sehwag in Kolkata with an excellent chase and diving stop. It is hard to imagine a scenario where he will play Test cricket again.
Tim Bresnan: A sad series for a wholehearted performer who seems, through no fault of his own, unable to attain the high levels of performance he once could. Bresnan was dropped after an insipid performance at Ahmedabad and, recalled in Nagpur because of injuries to Broad and Finn, fared no better. It was not just that his pace was down, but that he struggled to maintain the nagging line and length he possessed in the past. He finished wicketless in the series and may have to prove himself anew if he is to extend his Test career.
Stuart Broad: Hampered by illness and injury, Broad never looked at his best in the first two Tests, was dropped for the third and sent home early with a recurrence of his heel injury by the time the fourth started. Unable to take a wicket, he also leaked 4.36 runs per over and sometimes cut a forlorn figure. Only he could say if he really approached this tour in the requisite positive frame of mind but the signs were ambiguous at best.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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