Opinion: The low ebb is only slightly higher…

Blog Opinion

This was an absolute shellacking of India by an England side that saw its senior players all perform in the same game for the first time in close to two years.

England have won a Test match. After pretty much 12 whole months and eleven matches, they beat India. It wasn't a 'scrape past the opposition' affair. This was an absolute shellacking of India by an England side that saw its senior players all perform in the same game for the first time in close to two years.

Ian Bell scored a brilliant hundred, Jimmy Anderson got the ball to talk, Stuart Broad looked close to fitness. More importantly, Alastair Cook scored runs. Fifties in both innings no less.

England won by 266 runs and got the best of all 13 sessions in the game. It was as good a performance as England have put together in any format since Durham last year, but it was not without some good fortune.

If Alastair Cook had not been dropped by Ravi Jadeja on 15 England would have been 25-1 and they would have been facing building an innings without their captain yet again. If Jadeja had taken that relatively simple chance Cook would have failed again, and England would have had that familiar sinking feeling.

After all the turmoil that English cricket has been through since November, this victory will be enjoyed by all who associate themselves with the team, either inside or outside cricket. There was lots to enjoy.

Much has been made of the fact that those that have been playing for England the longest have performed the worst. It was not just Cook who had question marks over his continued selection. So too Ian Bell was in desperate need of some runs. He too had some early luck, but it was as close to the vintage Bell innings as you could hope to see.

There is a chance, albeit a slim one, that James Anderson will be banned from the next Test. The fallout of the Trent Bridge stairwell kerfuffle rumbles on, as the Indian team are keen to take a stand against the on field behaviour of England's strike bowler.

Here he was back to his best, picking up seven wickets and the man of the match award. The most likely outcome from the Judicial Review, and yes it has come to that, is that Anderson will be charged with a level 2 breach of the code of conduct and be given a fine and a suspended ban. He may be banned, but unless the video the India side claim to have emerges that remains unlikely.

Gary Ballance has continued his brilliant start to Test cricket. He now has five scores of over fifty in nine innings this summer. It was hard to imagine England finding a ready replacement for Jonathan Trott. They have, and with a minimum of fuss, just like the way Ballance bats.

Then there is Moeen Ali. He walked out to bat with Save Gaza wrist bands in England's first innings, he walked off the field at the end of the match with a six wicket haul. Moeen seems destined to be a cricketer than challenges people's notions, even if that isn't his intention.

Whether that is the role of faith in a sportsman's life, whether it is right to make a small political (or humanitarian) statement, or whether it he is a Test spinner, Moeen makes us think. As for the last of those, Moeen is not a front line Test spinner, but he is certainly not a part timer. Anyone who has watched him bowl in county cricket can tell you that. He can do a job at this level, of that there is no doubt.

As for India, this is a real fall back down to earth after the heroics of Lord's. Not many would have suggested before this series that the tourists would miss Ishant Sharma as badly as they did here, but it could be that they missed Ravi Ashwin more.

There is a widely held belief that Ashwin cannot perform outside India. As this is based on just four Tests it seems a little premature. What is certain is that as Jadeja continues to struggle for wickets there will come a point where Ashwin will be demanding selection, and that time could well be now.

Poor Pankaj Singh didn't take a wicket in the match and recorded the worst figures of any bowler on debut. He deserved more than that, but in cricket, as in life, you don't always get all that you are owed. With Ishant still injured you would hope he will get another go at Test cricket, he certainly deserves that.

The Indian batsmen are the people most culpable for this loss. There were far too many wickets gifted to the English bowlers, but that is not to say that the home side did not bowl well. There were points where some application from the Indians could have seen them find a way to save this game. As it was, a loose shot was never too far away.

This has been a brilliant week for England. There is nothing that raises the morale of players and fans like a win. That said, this win does not remove the doubts that have arisen over the last 12 months.

Cook had a good game, but he had 10 poor ones before that. He has some runs, but they do not mean he is a tactical genius, or even a tactical also-ran. He has always been a lead from the front captain, but this may well be too much for him. His runs are more important to England than his leadership. Sacrificing one for the other is foolish.

Anderson had a great game, but if he keeps bowling as much as he has been those will become less common. Broad still looks unfit, and playing him in back to back Tests won't improve that.

A win is great, whether that means that the ebb is a little higher than it was is up for debate.

<b>Peter Miller</b>

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