|Scorecard:||India v England|
|Event:||England in India 2012/13|
DateLine: 12th December 2012
India v England
4th Test 2012
Having lost the opening game of this four test series, Alastair Cook’s lead England team now have an unassailable lead over India as they head for the final match in Nagpur (4am GMT, Thursday).
India took the first test imperiously and looked set to whitewash the visitors, that is until England shifted into the top gear. The next two tests have been comfortably won by the visitors and avoiding defeat here will cause a series upset that hasn't occurred for them since 1985. So, what can we expect? The transformation since the first contest in Ahmedabad has been incredible. Cook’s men will be confident of clinching the series win.
When the praise was heaped upon the Indians after the first test and criticism leveled at their opponents woeful display against spin, suddenly the boot is on the other foot. Treachery is abound in the Indian camp and it seems as though this year, they have gone from one crisis to another. Not that the Indian media make it any easier on their rock star status cricketers, but the turnaround that has occurred in this series does warrant some questioning. Why are they struggling against spin that has never troubled them before, and what has happened to the batting?
Monty Panesar's stats from 2012 probably put pay to the first query, but the second is a different matter. Their batting collapse in the second innings in Mumbai and another in the second innings at Eden Gardens shows huge fragility, not something we have come to expect from India at home. Cheteshwar Pujara has been the only one who has looked set on occupying the crease and utilizing patience in order to score runs, something that is so important in this part of the world. There has been talk of a captaincy shift for future, relinquishing MS Dhoni from at least one of the formats to ease his workload. Although this may see improvement, the real problem lies in a lack of depth.
When there is a slump in form, which has happened across the group for the most part, there is a distinct lack of suitable replacements. Zaheer, Yuvraj and Harbhajan have all been dropped and are replaced by the rookie pace bowler Parvinder Awana, all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja and leg spinner Piyush Chawla respectively but we might also see Rahane dipping in playing 11. Recent stats are promising for all but Chawla, but the man who could really change India’s fortunes is Ravindra Jadeja. The man from Saurashtra is largely known outside of India as a one day specialist but his batting stats have been remarkable this year. Jadeja has recently become the first Indian to score three triple centuries in his first class career and they’ve all come in 2012. It’s fair to say that the 24-year-old is in the form of his life and should bring some stability to that brittle middle order.
Having said that, there is a possible scenario of nothing to lose which allows a freedom that could facilitate the kind of performance that fearfulness stifles. It permits players to give full expression to their talents, offering little thought to failure, and pushing them to heights they probably never expected to reach. The cagey fighter, holding himself back and fighting well within himself is hardly ever going to dominate his opponent. More likely is that his unwillingness to express himself will embolden his opponent into relentless attack, a tactic that will lead to victory more often than not.
This is not to say that India should become careless. Admittedly, there is sometimes a fine line between all out attack and recklessness, and test match cricket is nothing if not a game of consistency and patience. To propose aggression is not to propose carelessness.
The revelation that is Alistair Cook has gripped the England public and to be perfectly honest, they wouldn't be sitting in this pretty position without him. He is without a doubt the top opening batsmen in world cricket today, and it doesn't come from the free-wheeling industry that is so hyped among the players of the new generation. He's no David Warner nor Chris Gayle, but rather sets about accumulating his runs through steady application and playing within his limitations. He has scored a century in every test on this tour and five out of five games as captain, a new record. There's no telling how the Indians will go about stopping Alistair Cook, all that needs to be said is that they have to if they wish to compete in Nagpur.
Monty Panesar has had a sterling year. He's only been given opportunity to participate in five tests in 2012, but has taken 32 wickets at an average of 24.31. The Indians struggled against him hugely in Mumbai, but at Eden Gardens it was James Anderson who emerged as the chief destroyer. Although Panesar took four in the first innings, Anderson removed the key middle-order batsmen with some almost unplayable spells and returned in the second innings to take three more, alongside Steven Finn. The only hope for MS Dhoni is a result, and it is no secret that he believes a rank turner will achieve this. With the form of Panesar though, the Indians won't have it all their own way and may face another embarrassing defeat at the hands of their own brand of flight and guile.
England have no selection issues and after Stuart Broad suffered a recurrence of his worrying heel injury, it is certain that the selectors will field the same bowling attack that won in Kolkata. There may be some questions in the batting department however where Ian Bell and Samit Patel have looked less than convincing at numbers five and six.
Jonny Bairstow and Eoin Morgan are standing by but it would be a surprise if Cook doesn’t take the same, settled side to Nagpur.
It means that the key men for England are Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen once again. It took a freak run out to dismiss Cook on 190 last week and he looks unstoppable. If India can get the skipper’s wicket early then it could put the under-performing middle order under pressure.
Although relatively new to the test arena, Nagpur has hosted three over the last four years, all of which have produced results. Two of them have gone India's way, but the scorecards show a fairly even contest between bat and ball for the most part. The spinners will definitely find assistance here, especially as the test wears on. As usual, the toss will be important.
India Squad: MS Dhoni (c/wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Parvinder Awana, Piyush Chawla, Ashok Dinda, Gautam Gambhir, Ravindra Jadeja, Virat Kohli, Pragyan Ojha, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Virender Sehwag, Ishant Sharma, Sachin Tendulkar, Murali Vijay
England Squad: Alastair Cook (c), James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Ian Bell, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Nick Compton, Steven Finn, Stuart Meaker, Eoin Morgan, Graham Onions, Monty Panesar, Samit Patel, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior (wk), Joe Root, Graeme Swann, Jonathan Trott
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
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