England win determinedly at Lord’s

 

 

What a fitting finish to cricket’s 2000th Test match at Lord’s last Monday:  a full house on a fifth day thanks to some innovative thinking from the MCC, a cosmopolitan and infectious atmosphere, and plenty of hard and meaningful Test cricket. It was a joy to behold for Australian cricket connoisseurs following the incessant ramblings we’ve heard in recent months about who will and won’t be playing in the Aussie Big Bash, Mathew Hayden’s declaration that he is no longer ‘invested’ in Test cricket, and Andrew Hilditch’s selection woes.

England had to work hard for its victory, and this match was confirmation that it is a real chance to achieve its objective of becoming the world’s no.1 Test side in the not-too-distant future. The planning and organisation of the England team continues to impress  – the left-field move of Andrew Strauss playing for Somerset against the Indians in the tour match immediately prior to Lord’s was typical  –  and the stamp of coaches Andy Flower and David Saker was all over this victory.

Admittedly India was severely hampered by its lack of preparation, and the injuries and illness that beset it once the game began. Zaheer Khan’s injury was a setback which the attack was never going to be able to overcome, and the absence of Khan, Sachin Tendulkar and Gautum Gambhir from the West Indies Tests in the previous month left them badly underdone.

But England showed a resilience which is now becoming commonplace in its game; it lost the toss and was inserted in very difficult conditions, yet Johnathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen played with appropriate restraint knowing that things would get easier. It was by far Pietersen’s slowest Test century, and as he pushed on and turned it into a double he was fully aware of his responsibility to guide the middle order and tail through to an impregnable total. This was not the flashy Pietersen we have seen in the past, and his tactic of working Ishant Sharma through the leg-side from off stump and outside had a demoralising effect on the Indian paceman, playing his first Test on the Lord’s slope.

Matt Prior can play like a buffoon sometimes, but he showed maturity and professionalism in the way he led England’s recovery from 5/62 in the second innings. His performances with gloves and bat throughout the match were in stark contrast to his Indian counterpart, and he is now the best keeper/batsman in world cricket  –  a challenge in itself to Brad Haddin.

Nor was the securing of 20 wickets a given for the English attack. Graeme Swann provides a Warne-like crutch at one end, but English attacks of the past have often lacked the energy, discipline or belief to bowl out a team twice when in good situations. One senses that the combative Saker is the driving force behind this change, and his faith in Tim Tremlett and Stuart Broad has been well rewarded. Tremlett’s bounce unsettled a few despite him showing signs of weariness, while Saker has long regarded Broad as the best bowling prospect in world cricket.

India will get better of course. Suresh Raina is a young player of substance and is a sound choice ahead of Yuvraj Singh. Tendulkar now has his Lord’s hoodoo behind him, Gambhir will be better for a game under his belt, Praveen Kumar should continue to swing the ball at Nottingham, and Sharma got his radar back in the second innings and eventually showed the benefits of his good tour of the Carribbean.

But Khan and Virender Sehwag may not be back until later in the series, and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni needs to exert himself as he often does under pressure. He looked a poor Test cricketer at Lord’s  –  sloppy with the gloves and technically deficient with the bat  –   but he is one of India’s best-ever captains and has bounced back in the past from shabby first-up performances. He may not look a great player but he usually finds a way.

The decision not to use the Decision Review System for LBWs is a blight on the ICC, and another example of the disproportionate influence India has on the game. Maybe the loss of this series and its world no.1 mantle might dilute some of the ridiculous power India has worldwide. We know Australia’s administraltion won’t rock the boat, so we can only hope England’s will. A fascinating three Tests await us.

 

Comments

  1. I wonder, are we looking at an Australian team that willingly plays the baby brother to the old foes? I’ll support England if they can make Test cricket important to Cricket Australia again. Brendan, what was the MCC’s innovative thinking that got the crowd in on the fifth day? Also, I’m saddened by Hayden’s stance on Test cricket.

  2. The MCC dropped prices…they were “affordable”, but not cheap 20 quid I think.
    India missed Sehwag. Without him they were never a hope of chasing a big score. They can accumulate heaps, but not steamroll w/out he and MS on the charge. When VVS flicked to mid wicket they were, indeed, flicked!
    Prior remains a buffoon though he can bat otherwise. The reviews show what an obnoxious annoyance he is…and he still looks aggrieved. He was awful for cricket out here last year.
    Appropriately, Hayden was mentioned by Brendan in the same article.

    I enjoyed the Test and the outstanding coverage. KP was lucky but thrived like a great player does. He and Swann have really revised my opinions in the last 4 years.

  3. John Butler says:

    Welcome aboard Mr McArdle!

    I think the one thing you can rely on Matty Hayden for nowadays is an endless stream of management-speak dribble (cf his retirement speech).

    On a cricketing note, it’s a pity India always seem to allow no preparation for a test series and invariably find themselves behind the eight-ball. It shows the priorities of their administrators.

  4. 2nd Test tonight?

  5. nice, cruisy coverage. Obviously pics going elsewhere so yo can bet shots of funny faces or John Major and no stupid comments…in fact, minutes of no comment but some really good analysis when relevant. Hooray for FOX!

  6. smokie88 says:

    Brendan,
    You make a very relevant point regarding India’s continuing refusal to use the DRS.
    It is absolutely ludicrous that some Test series are being played with the DRS, whilst
    other series are not. And all because Tendulkar alledgedly does not approve of it!
    It’s not India who is controlling world cricket, it’s Sachin !
    Cheers
    Smokie.

  7. I was there at Lord’s and it was a wonderful match. Some terrific centuries (KP, Dravid & Prior), good fast bowling (Broad, Anderson and Sharma) and a terrific atmosphere. Just what we want Test Cricket to be really. 20 quid tickets on the last day saw a full house and a different mood in the ground from the other days. Indian fans were queued up for miles to get in. Hoping the rest of the series is just as exciting

  8. johnharms says:

    Nice to hear from you Lawrie, and by the way, congrats on your SA country footy site. It is a beauty.

  9. Hi John
    Thanks for sending a few page views my way….Rob McLean is a talented writer……will plonk a link to your’s in today’s Latest news
    Currently in Sri Lanka working on the tour here. Will try and send you the odd piece when time permits

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