Monday, 1 August 2011

England's Win a Victory for Tenacity

Test cricket is more than just about having a good technique or a solid defence. It's about mental fortitude and having the concentration for fifteen two-hour sessions of intense cricket where you have to keep your eye on the ball. Games of test cricket can be won and lost in an instant, and the best teams are those who are always switched on and are as such able to win those games at any given moment.

Having a team of good cricketers does go a long way, but the great sides of test cricket are the teams full of "winners" - those who refuse to give up when faced with defeat, or allow opposing teams to rise from difficult situations. England are certainly a team of winners. At 88/6 and 124/8 on the first afternoon, it would have been easy to fold and put up a score that would almost certainly be a losing one. But the grit and determination of the lower-order saw them to 221; not an awful score given the tough scoring conditions. India had overtaken that score with only four wickets down, and looked set to build a sizeable lead. But England fought back, and led by Stuart Broad taking 5 wickets for 0 runs in 18 balls, were reduced to a lead of only 67.

Even when things weren't going their way during that Indian first innings, England kept fighting. They never stopped believing that they could cause an Indian collapse, and it only needed the spark of Stuart Broad to make it happen. Compare that to the lifeless display of bowling from India at the back end of England's second innings, where runs were being gifted away and nobody seemed to bothered. The impressive Praveen Kumar aside, it was a completely gutless and embarrassing display, as Prior, Bresnan and Broad all cashed in with the easiest runs in test cricket they will ever make. India had completely given up - remarkable for a team that boasts some of the greatest talents to ever grace the game, are World Champions, and the current holders of the world number one ranking. That seems as though it's going to be meekly surrendered too. Bell's innings was full of class, and even allowing for his reprieve, India still were in with a chance. Bell departed at 323/4, a lead of only 256. Had they got their tails up and stuck into England, they could have been looking at a chase of not much more than 300. Given that Bell showed batting wasn't a total nightmare on that pitch, and that they possess Dravid, Laxman and Tendulkar, India were still in with a big chance of winning that game. You know England, or indeed, any team of winners would have at least given it a crack. Instead, they ceded another 200 runs as England's tail took it well out of their reach. By the end, it was men against boys. They didn't even bother trying to reach the victory target of 478.

India are quite clearly a team of class individual players, all with skills that on their day make them world-class performers. However, when the going got tough, they didn't get going at all, instead retreating so meekly it made England's march to victory almost painful to watch. The hosts, on the other hand are a side that relish the big battles, and they invariably win them. To win the game by 319 runs given the perils of the first two days certainly shows the character of this current England team. India earned the number one test ranking, but have underperformed massively so far, with England taking full advantage. England are now odds-on to take over that coveted number one ranking, and having seen the way they've played in the first two tests of the series, you'd fancy them holding onto the position for a very long time to come.

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