England’s experience pays off in emphatic victory

Just under a month after India’s heroics in Australia, they turned to play host to an England team hot from their own winning feats in Sri Lanka.

Prior to going into this series, most cricket pundits, including a very vocal Michael Vaughan, gave England absolutely no chance of being able to succeed in any aspect of the series, let alone defeating the hosts by 227 runs in the first test.

The first day saw a little opening partnership between a returning Rory Burns and ‘the fridge’, otherwise known as Dominic Sibley, before England’s most successful captain, and current star of 2021 came to the crease.

Superbly leading by example, Joe Root celebrated his 100th Test cap in phenomenal style by achieving his fifth test double century. With another useful knock from most Englishmen’s champion of cricket, Ben Stokes, England stylishly and skilfully made their way to 578.
With most of the batsmen having done their part, it was now time for the bowlers to step to the wicket that Ishant Sharma had compared to a road on the first day.

Leading up to this series, much had been made in the press about the role of the spinners, given the conditions of India; the surface of the wicket; and the 24 wickets that Root, Jack Leach, and Dom Bess took between them in Sri Lanka.

Despite both having one rocky innings, they managed eleven wickets between them.

Stoic efforts from Cheteshwar Pujara, Rishabh Pant and Washington Sundar enabled a respectable first innings score of 337. However, this score and Sharma’s achievement of taking his 300th test wicket were not enough to stop the England bowling attack completing an emphatic victory on the final day of play.

The Channel 4 commentators had been speculating for most of day four’s afternoon session about why England hadn’t declared sooner.
All criticisms and comments were soon shut down by an impressive display from all bowlers, most notably James Anderson.

The seemingly unstoppable 38-year-old produced one of his most spectacular spells in his long test career, as his ability to reverse swing allowed him to take three wickets for seven runs.
At one point, it appeared even the Indian weather was against the batting side with the wind blowing off the bails (nearly sending Sharma walking) before Stokes, Archer and Leacher wrapped up the final few wickets.
The scorecard highlights the efforts the entire team made to the success of this test, yet it is worth noting the importance of the ‘old guard’ and ‘senior’ members of the squad.

Root’s current form not only shows how incredibly hard he has worked in the lockdowns to better his game, most significantly against spinners. It also demonstrates remarkable leadership and serves to inspire his fellow, yet less-experienced, batsmen.

Root’s captaincy has also distinctly improved over the last few months as he has built his confidence in knowing exactly when to use which bowler.

One such example was the decision to postpone bringing Anderson into the attack until the ball was at peak reverse-swing level.
Similarly, this spell from the G.O.A.T. of English cricket, must quieten any criticism or remarks questioning whether it might be time for Anderson to give way to the younger generation.

His experience, especially for away tours in foreign climates (such as in India), is invaluable.

Additionally, his commitment to his form, fitness and technique encourages his (much) younger teammates to continue to strive for success.
Even with Mark Wood currently on proactive rest from the bubble environment and Jofra Archer out injured, England have a pool of talent among the England bowlers, including the likes of Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes and a rejuvenated Moeen Ali.

Given this, the selectors must have had a hard time debating the merits of experience over pace, youth over age and whether to risk selecting a potential all-rounder over the known reliability of the current spinners.

They chose greater batting depth by opting for Moeen in place of Bess and also chose to rest Anderson for the second test in Chennai which started on 13 February.

Image: Dan Heap via Wikimedia