Anything is possible. First a whitewash, next step the world - Cricket - Sport - The Independent

Anything is possible. First a whitewash, next step the world

England have outplayed India in each of the first two Tests, exhibiting skill, intelligence and resilience

This England team can achieve anything now. So complete is their control of this Test series that prospects of a whitewash are looming into view.

Two weeks ago that notion would have seemed risible. India had been the No 1 side in the world for almost two years, they had a vaunted batting order, a venerated captain and a calm sense of their own worth. Their bowling was less potent but it had prospered against decent opponents.

As of last night, most of that hardly mattered. England have outplayed India in each of the first two Tests, exhibiting skill, intelligence and resilience. They have been, whether bowling or batting, a pleasure to watch and whatever the official rankings say there is no doubt at all who are the best current Test team.

It is important to point out that India have been severely depleted by the absence of two key men. Virender Sehwag, missing with a shoulder injury, is so destructive as an opening batsman that he can change the shape of a match irrevocably and rapidly.

Similarly, Zaheer Khan's left-arm swing has been integral to their recent ascendancy, both in Tests and the World Cup victory last April. Both men may return in time for the third Test at Edgbaston, which starts on Wednesday next week. Regardless of shortage of practice, India desperately need them.

England have overcome their losses with much more aplomb so far. Tim Bresnan fitted seamlessly into the side for Chris Tremlett for the second Test and was a resounding success in all departments. When England talk of having a bowling unit they are not kidding. How do they drop Bresnan with an innings of 90 and second-innings figures of 5 for 48?

They may be about to discover if strength in depth is also true of their batting. Although Jonathan Trott suffered no bone damage when he landed on his shoulder the other day he is clearly in considerable discomfort and there must be at least a chance that he will not be fit in time to play in Birmingham.

Presumably, the selectors would turn to Ravi Bopara, who so nearly made the team for the opening Test of the summer against Sri Lanka. He had been in no sort of form until last week when he made a fighting hundred on a contrary Southend pitch.

It is supposed, however, that the selectors may be ready to allow James Taylor to start his international career. Of much more pertinence than Taylor's fairly indifferent county form for Leicestershire is the vastly mature 76 he scored for England Lions against Sri Lanka at Derby in May.

There may still be some life in the series. India have made a habit of coming back whether home or away, and they have long since shed their disability outside the subcontinent. But so far there has been only one side in it. First at Lord's and then again at Trent Bridge, England found themselves in difficulty having lost the toss and been asked to bat.

At Trent Bridge particularly it looked as though it might be profoundly costly. It was not. England are truly exceptional.

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