England v India Tests 2006 - marks out of 10
by Matthew Reed

Event:England in India 2005/06

DateLine: 24th March 2006


He is officially now the most physically and mentally strong man in international cricket. His bowling remained a handful on largely unhelpful pitches, his batting was remarkably consistent for a big shot maker, and his grasp on tactical and team matters was strong. His painstaking 50 on the fourth day in Mumbai was questioned at the time, although it proved spot on.


After his demolition job at Nagpur, he had proved once and for all that his brand of West Yorkshire bred line and length swing bowling could demolish batting line-ups in every cricketing continent. His batting wasn’t as redoubtable as usual, although, after Flintoff, he is fast making a case to being the second least dispensable member of the England side.


His maiden Test century was a timely further progression of his Test career, what with the arrival of Cook and Shah. The Durham man topped the English batting averages, although with his ineffectual medium pacers savaged by Sehwag, he could soon be considered as a specialist batsman only for Test selection. The return of Vaughan and Trescothick could still threaten his place in the team.


The wunderkind of English batting finally got a chance a decade after his first-class debut. If 126 runs in his debut Test wasn’t enough, the way he treated Harbhajan like he was as a rookie off-spinner at Uxbridge gave evidence of a temperament ideally suited to both Test cricket and the current England set-up.


14 months after tears at Johannesburg, the man who was England’s sixth choice paceman at the start of the tour rediscovered that pace, accuracy, and a little bit of movement is enough to trouble even the world’s best batsmen, as he hustled out Dravid and Tendulkar in the Indian first innings in Munbai. With Simon Jones continuing to be injury plagued, it will be very exciting for England if he can maintain this form.


Overlooked for the captaincy, his excellent century to set up victory in Mumbai prevented a second poor subcontinental tour of the winter, although the feeling persists that international attacks are wising up to his love of anything short and wide.


His spectacular catching helped to level the series at the Wankhede, although it was a disappointing series with the bat, with his one innings of note being an unusually trenchant effort in an ultimately losing cause in Mohali, although his critics would have had more to crow about if his form in the two disciplines had been reversed.


He celebrated his 37th birthday on the first day in Mumbai, although it was on day five that he received his present, spinning India to a comprehensive defeat. Although the Indians slogged him as they limply capitulated, his classic dismissal of Tendulkar kicked the door open for England to storm to victory. It is especially poignant, and satisfying, that figures of 4-14 to bowl England to a series levelling win thousands of miles from home is likely to be his last act as a Test cricketer.


Like Harmison in the Ashes tour of 2002-3, the excitement surrounding him was as much for his future potential as it was his present destructiveness. However, he proved he could produce unplayable balls, even if his batting and (especially) his fielding remain short of the standards required to fit the currently demanded model of the three dimensional cricketer. However, his resilience with willow in hand did allow Collingwood to reach three figures in Nagpur.


Another tour in which high quality spells were not always matched by high wicket hauls, although his first bowl in the series was Malcolm-esque with its high adrenaline, low radared legside splays. His shin splint injury was, worryingly a recurrence of an old complaint. His boundary laden knock at Nagpur again demonstrated that his combination of long levers and a good eye makes him an underestimated hitting batsman.


A poor match in Mohali shouldn’t obscure the wonderful debut which he enjoyed at Nagpur, where his century on debut puts him in the highest temperamental bracket, although allowing him to crawl to his hundred in the second innings did delay England’s declaration. He should play many more Tests for England, although whether he breaks up the Strauss/Trescothick axis in the summer of 2006 remains to be seen.


In a series of other players providing more conspicuous batting failures and successes, Pietersen was for once largely anonymous. This series proved he can still score quickly, can still intimidate attacks and can still get himself out. Nothing new there, although his once capable off-spin still seems destined to be remain unseen at Test level.


He had a disastrous tour, going backwards after a successful Pakistan tour, and if an average of 21 wasn’t bad enough, the emergence of Cook and Shah and the improvement of Collingwood means it will be a surprise if he starts the English Test summer.


Was a rare example in the current England set-up of a man fit and in possession of a place being replaced, which shows how much his performance in the Second Test was disappointing, where he was very much the fifth bowler and an optimistic Test no.8. With the return of James Anderson, he probably won’t start the English Test summer, although his time should come again.


After a maturing spell as Somerset captain, and with superb batting returns from recent seasons, the hopes were high that Blackwell could provide penetration with the ball and destructive ballast with the bat. As it was, he looked short of class in both disciplines. He now finds himself no higher than fifth choice England spinner after the winter efforts of Batty, Udal and Panesar.



March 2006



(Article: Copyright © 2006 Matthew Reed)


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