Ajinkya Rahane's counter-attacking century on the first day of the Lord's Test was the stand-out performance of the Test, according to Graeme Swann, the former England offspinner. On a green pitch, India stumbled to 145 for 7 but Rahane's fluent strokeplay pulled the team to safety. India scored 295 in the first innings when at one point, even 200 had looked difficult.
"Ajinkya Rahane was without a doubt the stand-out Indian player in the second Test," Swann said. "There is no way he could have ever batted on a wicket like this. He would have turned up on the first morning, and thought to himself 'How do you bat on a pitch like this?' And then he went on to get that beautiful hundred. That first innings was the difference in this Test.
"The way he batted, he made England come up with the most ludicrous tactic I could imagine. That's not about the bowlers or the captain, that is purely down to the batsman. For me, Rahane should have been the Man of the Match, no doubt."
It was, however, Ishant Sharma who was named the Man of the Match for his 7 for 74 in the fourth innings that sealed India's win. During a short period around lunch on the fifth day, Ishant's persistent short-ball barrage consumed five batsmen and England crumbled to 223 all out after being 173 for 4 just before the end of the first session.
"Ishant bowled a splendid spell, don't get me wrong," Swann said. "But a few of those wickets were simply gifted to him by some really bad shots by the English batsmen. I was surprised that so many of them got out in the same way.
"England wasted too many opportunities on the first day. They should have bowled India out for under-200 from 140-odd for seven, but they allowed them to get 295. James Anderson and Stuart Broad should be very disappointed with the way they bowled on the first day because it was a wicket more suited to them. And that is the problem for England."
Swann said England's senior players' form is a cause of concern as they are the ones who get the team to rally behind them. "The senior players just aren't firing," he said. "Alastair Cook isn't in form, Ian Bell isn't scoring runs. Jimmy and Broad have been in poor form as well.Sometimes the whole team gets hidden behind one player who is doing very well. It was Bell who did that for us the last year. Right now we have no one to cover for the other batsmen.
"We haven't even got that one bowler to cover for the whole of bowling attack either."
Alastair Cook, the England captain, has struggled to score runs for an extended period now and that has put a question mark over his place in the side. Swann suggested that a complete change of approach could help the batsman. "He has done everything right," Swann said. "He's gone over his routine, hit a 1000 balls in the nets and even got a start in the second innings. But nothing has worked for him. So personally I would like to see him do something unnatural, go against his game.
"Go have a couple of beers, eat some junk food, calm down and take some pressure off, and then smash the bowling when you bat. Just throw caution to the wind.
"But I know he won't do that. So I don't really know the solution to this problem."