A victory that poses questions

THIRD TEST: Uninspiring England wrap up series but leave plenty of room for improvement
Click to follow
The Independent Online
England may have taken the unusual step of actually winning a series, but their solitary victory against a side in the throes of rebuilding was hardly resounding evidence of a revival, and despite the endearing hype and methods introduced by their coach, David Lloyd, world domination is still clearly light years away.

When stumps were finally and mercifully drawn on this toothless contest, England had somehow managed to bowl India out. As this was more to do with the visitors not wanting to bring Test cricket into disrepute, by prolonging the agony of an already deceased game, England's bowlers can only take minimal credit.

By some bizarre interpretation of the old supply and demand curve, they were still charging money to get into this game at lunchtime, which seemed a bit rich. However, those foolish enough to part with their cash would, after the previous torpor-ridden days, not have been disappointed.

For one thing, Sachin Tendulkar almost played the innings of the series, and his 74 was simply domination by another name. Coming in at 104 for 2, he larruped the bowling to all parts and, judging by the ferocity of his strokes, it was clear that he for one was not prepared to swallowed up by the dreariness.

Sadly, that now appears to be the destiny of his captain, Mohammad Azharuddin, who completed a bereft tour with his second single-figure score of the match when he was brilliantly caught at mid-off by Dominic Cork. By the time India play their next Test, he is unlikely to be in charge.

By contrast, Saurav Ganguly had every reason to be upbeat. But if his third century in successive innings eluded him, when Cork forced him into playing the ball on to his stumps, his 48 was still full of classy strokes.

He is an exciting prospect, unexpectedly unearthed after Navjot Sidhu's departure from the tour. Fittingly he won both the man of the match as well as India's man of the series. Which is no mean feat when Tendulkar has kept the competition keen with a brace of hundreds of his own.

In contrast to the previous four days of this match, when only 13 wickets had fallen, they positively tumbled yesterday, and 11 - including two of England's first innings - fell between the start and 5.20pm.

Of the remainder that fell during India's second innings, Mark Ealham managed to bag four in the space of 17 balls. Unless injury intervenes over the next fortnight, he is virtually certain to play against Pakistan at Lord's.

Less certain is the fate of his Kent team-mate Min Patel, who wheeled away into the rough without ever really troubling either left-hander or right. Having taken just a single wicket in the series, he is in that unenviable limbo land of having learned just about all there is to his art at county level.

He is phlegmatic, which is vital in a spinner. Yet if he is to improve, he must learn to spin the ball, a habit only a prolonged exposure to good players at Test level will help promote. On the evidence so far, he may not get it, and Ian Salisbury will undoubtedly become the name the selectors will have in mind as pitches become drier.

After the match, Atherton identified that England had settled on a nucleus of players, but were still trying to fit in the final pieces. Whether or not that nucleus currently contains Graeme Hick is unclear, but with Alec Stewart playing well and Nick Knight recovered from injury, Hick has two weeks to convince the selectors he should be part of the revival.

However, when stripped to its barest essentials, England's resurgence has amounted to little more than a couple of competent one-day performances, followed by a decisive victory at Edgbaston on a surface unfit for Test cricket.

If England had truly turned a competitive corner then they would not have allowed India to get back into the series with such a limp bowling performance at Lord's, especially after their batsmen had battled their way to 344 in trying conditions. By the way Pakistan appear to be shaping up against the counties, England will not find their second opponents of the summer quite so obligingly slow to start.

That said, England are virtually unrecognisable from the team that returned home from Pakistan last March. Since then, Lloyd has managed to raise both effort and energy levels, and if certain aspects of their cricket remains tentative, their fielding has bristled with aggression and purpose.

Like India they have unearthed new talents, and the fruition of Nasser Hussain's batting talents will have been one of the most satisfying aspects of the summer.

His century at Edgbaston was crucial in setting up England's win and the fluency he showed here was matched only by Tendulkar and Ganguly. Nobody can have been surprised when Sandip Patil, the Indian coach, nominated him as England's man of the series.

Raymond Illingworth was full of praise for the Essex vice-captain. "He's really come on in the last year or so and he's a good fielder. He has a big future, maybe as captain in the long-term."

Although that will be news to Atherton, who was born in the same week as Hussain, the England captain will miss his assertive batting, especially against the spinners, should his broken finger fail to heal in time for the Lord's Test on 27 July.

Pakistan, a truer Test, page 2

Trent Bridge scoreboard

India won toss

INDIA - First Innings 521 (S R Tendulkar 177, S C Ganguly 136, R S Dravid 84, S V Manjrekar 53).

ENGLAND - First Innings

(Overnight: 550 for 7)

D G Cork not out 32

(109 min, 96 balls, 2 fours)

M M Patel c Manjrekar b Ganguly 27

(88 min, 77 balls, 2 fours)

A D Mullally c Mongia b Ganguly 1

(13 min, 9 balls)

Extras (b18 lb18 nb14) 50

Total (792 min, 198.5 overs) 564

Fall (cont): 8-558 (Patel) 9-564 (Mullally).

Bowling: Srinath 47-12-131-2 (nb5) (13-3-45-0, 8-3-21-1, 3-1-10-0, 3- 0-6-0, 11-2-26-0, 9-3-23-1); Prasad 43-12-124-2 (nb7) (4-1-16-0, 6-2-15- 0, 4-1-16-0, 3-1-12-0, 7-1-19-0, 12-2-29-1, 7-4-17-1); Kumble 39-6-98- 1 (nb3) (1-0-2-0, 3-1-4-0, 4-0-21-0, 10-2-35-0, 21-3-36-1); Raju 43-12- 76-1 (10-3-21-0, 11-1-23-0, 1-0-1-0, 15-6-26-1, 6-2-5-0); Ganguly 19.5- 2-71-3 (nb3) (1-0-6-0, 5-0-18-0, 1-0-6-0, 10-2-28-1, 2.5-0-13-2); Tendulkar 7-0-28-0 (5-0-19-0, 2-0-9-0).

INDIA - Second Innings

N R Mongia c Lewis b Mullally 45

(198 min, 153 balls, 4 fours)

S V Manjrekar c Stewart b Lewis 11

(36 min, 33 balls, 2 fours)

S C Ganguly b Cork 48

(120 min, 86 balls, 8 fours)

S R Tendulkar c Stewart b Lewis 74

(112 min, 97 balls, 11 fours, 1 six)

R S Dravid c Thorpe b Mullally 8

(25 min, 21 balls, 1 four)

*M Azharuddin c Cork b Ealham 8

(36 min, 14 balls)

A Kumble lbw b Ealham 2

(12 min, 6 balls)

J Srinath c Thorpe b Ealham 3

(14 min, 8 balls)

B K V Prasad not out 0

(14 min, 3 balls)

S L V Raju c sub (N A Gie) b Ealham 0

(5 min, 4 balls)

V Rathore absent hurt 0

Extras (b1 lb1 w1 nb9) 12

Total (293 min, 69 overs) 211

Fall: 1-17 (Manjrekar) 2-103 (Ganguly) 3-140 (Mongia) 4-160 (Dravid) 5-204 (Azharuddin) 6-208 (Tendulkar) 7-208 (Kumble) 8-211 (Srinath) 9- 211 (Raju).

Bowling: Lewis 14-4-50-2 (nb1 w1) (7-3-20-1, 3-1-11-0, 4-0-19-1); Cork 7-0-32-1 (nb3) (3-0-10-0, 4-0-22-1); Mullally 13-3-36-2 (nb6) (6-3-4-0, 7-0-32-2); Ealham 14-5-21-4 (11-4-18-0, 3-1-3-4); Patel 12-3-47-0 (nb1) (7-1-31-0, 5-2-16-0); Hick 9-4-23-0 (one spell).

Match drawn.

Man of the match: S C Ganguly (Ind).

Men of the series: N Hussain (Eng) and S C Ganguly (Ind).

Umpires: K T Francis and G Sharp.

TV Replay Umpire: D J Constant.

Previous results: First Test (Edgbaston): England won by eight wickets. Second Test (Lord's): Match drawn.

DEREK PRINGLE'S ENGLAND SQUAD FOR THE FIRST TEST AGAINST PAKISTAN

Atherton

Knight

Hussain (if recovered)

Thorpe

Hick

Ealham

Irani

Russell

Lewis

Cork

Mullally

Salisbury

Caddick or Gough

First Test starts at Lord's on 25 July

Comments