India v England, 1st ODI, Rajkot January 11, 2013

Not perfect but satisfying

England may need to address the shortcomings of their bowling attack but can otherwise rejoice in a fine win

It was not perfect, it was not always pretty and it was not quite as decisive as the final margin might suggest, but England can take great satisfaction from their first ODI victory over India in India in 14 attempts, stretching back to 2006.

This series was never going to be all about results. This is an India side in transition and an England side without several first choice players. Both teams are using it to build to more significant challenges in the future.

But England can take encouragement from this result. It was not just that they ended their grim run in India and have given themselves a decent platform in the series, but they also learned lessons about some fringe players who could have a role in their Champions Trophy and World Cup campaigns. Most pleasing of all, when the pressure was on, England held their nerve.

Certainly James Tredwell, deservedly recognised as man of the match, and the top-order batsmen could congratulate themselves on a job expertly done. Tredwell underlined his position as Graeme Swann's most appropriate understudy with a calm, disciplined and skilful performance that stood above every other spinner in the game. In another era, he might well have been England's first choice offspinner in Test and limited-overs cricket.

But in many ways, this was a game full of paradoxical impressions for England. While Samit Patel's batting could justifiably be credited as making the difference between the sides as he helped England plunder 64 from the final five overs and 38 from the last two, his bowling again looked below the standard required in international cricket. While Jade Dernbach's slower ball claimed the key wicket of MS Dhoni, his lack of control did not always convince. And while Tim Bresnan claimed an important wicket - that of Virat Kohli - he conceded more than eight an over and delivered too many poor deliveries for a senior bowler. England's seamers delivered a performance almost completely without yorkers - Hawkeye suggests there were, at most, two in the entire innings - with the attack often looking at least one bowler short.

There will be those that suggest that England might have scored more runs, too. It is hard to fault a performance that took England to the 12th highest total in their 588 game ODI history, but perhaps England's could have eked out a few more had their openers taken the Powerplay earlier. As it was Eoin Morgan and Kevin Pietersen, relatively new to the crease, were obliged to take it and still scored a respectable 44 runs. But had Bell and Cook, together for nearly 28 overs, taken it when both were fully accustomed to the pitch and the bowling, maybe they could have scored a few more. Their use of the Powerplay remains imperfect.

England still look a bowler light. While Joe Root papered over some cracks, he cannot be expected to regularly fulfil such a role

And while the partnership between Craig Kieswetter and Patel added 70 in only 37 balls - the defining passage of the match - Patel was, by far, the more impressive of the two. Indeed, while both men faced 20 deliveries, Patel failed to score off just four of them and Kieswetter failed to score off 11. Might Jos Buttler have proven a more explosive option? Perhaps both Kieswetter and Buttler are, at this relatively early stage of their career, a little hit and miss, with Kieswetter typically tending to either block or hit a boundary. In this innings, 16 of his runs came from only three deliveries, meaning the other 17 yielded just eight. Against a green India side that may go unnoticed but against a strong South Africa such factors could prove costly.

Patel's performance is particularly intriguing. He batted as well as he ever has in an England shirt and, if the next Champions Trophy or World Cup were to be played in Asia, would surely prove a valuable player. But with those events in the UK and Australia and New Zealand respectively, it may be that England still conclude they require a seam rather than spin bowling allrounder to bat at six or seven. In that case, the likes of Chris Woakes, Ben Stokes and Ravi Bopara may yet have a role to play.

The problem is that England still look a bowler light in such conditions. While Joe Root papered over some cracks with a typically mature performance with the ball, he cannot be expected to regularly fulfil such a role in England at this stage of his career. By playing only four specialist bowlers, England had little margin for error with few options but to persist with each of those four even if they are enduring a bad day. It would be a little harsh to suggest that England only got away with the performances of Dernbach and Bresnan but nor could it be said that either were fully convincing. That England came close to being beaten for only the fifth time having posted a total of more than 300 in an ODI does not reflect well on the bowling.

Some might also conclude that, such is the solidity of the top order, England need another aggressive batsman in their top six. Certainly the form of Alastair Cook and Ian Bell in the last year has been exceptional and there may be times when the acceleration of Pietersen and Morgan requires promotion up the order. They will conclude, as inevitable as it is erroneous, that England require someone other than Jonathan Trott to slip back into the side at the start of next summer.

But this was an unusually good pitch. In England, in particular, where the two new balls will provide greater assistance to the bowlers, the sight of Trott at No. 3 will remain reassuring. He can always drop down the order to accommodate the elevation of Pietersen or Morgan if England's openers have batted beyond 30 overs. The current ODI playing regulations - two new balls and a maximum of four men outside the fielding circle - may well contribute to an increase in the par ODI total, but an ability to see off good bowling and accumulate calmly will always be valuable. No-one in England does those things better than Trott. Perhaps no-one in the world is better at marshalling a chase of around 250.

England's strength, in Test and ODI cricket, is to play the percentages: to put consistency above inspiration; to apply pressure on the opposition and see if they crack rather than attempting to snatch games away. It is an approach that will continue to win more games than it loses. Whether it is enough to win a global event we will discover soon enough.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Jo on January 14, 2013, 17:53 GMT

    Let us hope for a really sporty second ODI here. Meaning, great athletic fielding, bowlers tricking batsmen with their surprises, batsmen giving it back with their master strokes (does not mean 6ers at all). As we knew ODI must have handful of these events. Never matter who wins and who loose, but how beautifully/ruthlessly they compete without any body giving a notion of giving-up. Really anxiously expecting that cricket would be played with passion, and not a mere duty of the day.

  • Matt on January 14, 2013, 16:33 GMT

    Am I the only one who has serious misgivings about Kieswetter? His glove work was poor and given what Patel was doing at the other end I thought he could perhaps have done more (a bit harsh perhaps) but his recent ODIs haven't exactly been awe inspring and we'd be better of brining back Prior and telling him to play like he does in tests - well perhaps a bit quicker but you know what I mean. I know Prior has an ordinary record in ODIs but to be fair they kept moving him up and down the order. If not Prior then how about Buttler, Bairstow or Davis?

  • Mark on January 14, 2013, 8:19 GMT

    "My main thing is that I wouldn't have Bell,Cook and Trott in the same ODI side." That, JG is, as our American friends say, a no-brainer. It was a big like having Mike Brearley and Geoff Boycott opening in ODIs: solid, but just a tad one-paced. However, with players like Morgan, Bairstow, Buttler, Kieswetter, Samit, Stokes and Woakes there plenty of options for players to give the ball a good thump in the middle order.

  • John on January 13, 2013, 19:33 GMT

    @jmcilhinney on (January 13 2013, 12:21 PM GMT) My main thing is that I wouldn't have Bell,Cook and Trott in the same ODI side. To me , if he is coming in after Bell and Cook then (if he is to score big) A - Bell or Cook have to get out early and B - Trott has to score big. TBH I've not really noticed that Trott has gears to accelerate but I'll go with your knowledge on that one.

  • John on January 13, 2013, 12:21 GMT

    @JG2704 on (January 13 2013, 09:21 AM GMT), I'm not disagreeing especially. I've said for quite some time that Trott is not the future of the England ODI team. That said, Trott does accelerate towards the end of a big innings, contrary to some reports. I've seen more than one innings where he's ended at about a run a ball. That will only happen when he gets a very big score though, which doesn't happen often enough.

  • John on January 13, 2013, 9:21 GMT

    @venkatesh018 on (January 12 2013, 14:36 PM GMT) Re Root def being a better limited overs bowler than Samit - not sure I agree. On this game's evidence it looks so but Samit's 1st 2 overs were very decent and the 3rd over he was targeted by Dhoni. Think Root was shown too much respect and while it was a great contribution I wouldn't expect his figures to be that good every time he bowls in ODIs. I'd also say that in India we need a different pace all rounder rather than another one. Bres hasn't cut it for some time so maybe bring Woakes in for him (who may be as expensive as a bowler but is def a better bat) and Briggs for Jade

  • John on January 13, 2013, 9:21 GMT

    @R_U_4_REAL_NICK - Hello my friend. That's my point exactly re Trott (too many accumulators with Bell and Cook) . Re Monty , I'm not sure he has the same variations of pace etc that Swann and Tredwell have even if he can turn the ball more. However I do agree that we at least go for one extra spinner

    @jmcilhinney on (January 13 2013, 00:37 AM GMT) Sorry to disagree bud but I'm kind of more with Y86 on this one. A year back I'd have had him in over Bell but Bell seems to have progressed whereas Trott seems to get bogged down these days in this format. I'd say 2 players going between 70 and 100 is enough and right now Cook and Bell are those players for me. Had Trott played on Saturday I don't think we'd have posted 300. It looked unlikely for a while when Craig and Samit came to the crease

  • Ski on January 13, 2013, 8:52 GMT

    yorkshire-86 - I'm a big fan of Montys (isn't everyone) and I agree monty's batting doesn't matter in an ODI BUT his fielding does matter and that is not good enough to be considered. A couple of Monty misfields (which are inevitable) and India would have won

  • John on January 13, 2013, 0:37 GMT

    @yorkshire-86 on (January 12 2013, 20:36 PM GMT), that's actually not quite true regarding Trott. He does and has accelerated later in his innings when he has made a big score. He has ended up about a run a ball in some bigger scores that I've seen. That said, he doesn't make a big score every time and on those occasions that he doesn't, his slower scoring early on can put extra pressure on the later batsman. The good thing about Cook is that he's known as a stoic batsman but has developed his game to where he can and does turn it on when needed. Maybe not to the degree that someone like KP can but his innings in the first ODI against India is a good example of the new Cook. Trott is either not willing or not able to develop his game in that way. He's a great man to have around when consolidation is required but he is a bit one-dimensional as an ODI batsman. With England's batting looking a bit less fragile these days, his good average but low strike rate look more hindrance than help.

  • Jeff on January 12, 2013, 20:36 GMT

    As for players missing - Anderson never was a world class one day bowler and never will be. Broad often goes for 7+ an over. Trott is one-paced, he rarely gets bogged down but lacks the ability to accelerate - he will strike his runs at 70 per 100 balls whether he scores a ten or a ton. We need, as this game proved, batsmen that can step on the gas. The player that should be playing but isnt, is Monty. What does his batting matter in a ODI, if your number 11 has to bat then you have already lost the game 90% of the time. Two new balls is a stupid thing to argue, opening batsmen always face new balls anyway, big hitters often prefer new balls as they can be hit further, and fast bowlers prefer ancient balls for the reverse swing as conventional swing isnt that useful without a battery of fielders in the 'grippers', which isnt going to happen in a format where saving runs is the most important part of the game. Patels 1 good game in 10 unfortuantly will keep him his place :(

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