England v India Fifth Test: England to guard against a revival as unlikely as theirs

Alastair Cook’s men in control of series after that drop of good fortune for captain

cricket correspondent

The moment when everything changed came on a sunny Sunday morning in Southampton. Alastair Cook, the beleaguered England captain, pushed at a ball outside off stump – as he had so often during a grotesque run of form stretching back more than a year. It found the edge and went at knee height to Ravindra Jadeja’s left at third slip.

As these things go it was a dolly. Cook was on 15, failing again and England, 1-0 down in the series to India, would soon be staring down the barrel. The jig was all but up for all of them. And then Jadeja muffed it. The ball hit his hands and fell to the ground. Cook was reprieved.

From that point on, it has been England, England all the way. Cook went on to make 95, and 70 not out in the second innings, his team won that session and the 12 which followed it in the third Test to level at 1-1. The story was similar in Manchster, where they won by an innings and 54 runs inside three days.

The fifth and final Test of a series that has been compressed into 42 days begins at The Kia Oval on Friday. It is England’s to lose now, but on such small margins as that at the Ageas Bowl are such revivals based.

“A couple of drag-ons, caught down the leg side, that’s sport, cricket,” said Cook when invited to reflect on the way it might have gone. “There’s no point reflecting on what-ifs and should-haves. I was happy he dropped me and the rest turned out well. It might have turned out differently if he’d caught it, you just don’t know.”

It is as difficult to envisage India coming back to draw this Investec series 2-2 as it was to imagine England responding so assertively after their abject exhibition at Lord’s in the second Test. Which means, of course, that it is possible.

The tourists look dead and buried, waiting for the sanctuary of the one-day series, but England will leave nothing to chance. Too much has gone wrong in the past few months for them remotely to consider that they are home and hosed.

In Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad – with a little dash of Moeen Ali – they possess the ingredients which should make the difference between these sides. Anderson is on the cusp of becoming England’s greatest Test wicket-taker, needing eight to overtake the record of 383 set by Sir Ian Botham 22 years ago. Broad, his long-time partner over 68 matches  – in 44 of which they have opened the bowling together – is fit after sustaining a broken nose when hit in the face by a bouncer at Old Trafford last Saturday.

Alastair Cook and a bandaged Stuart Broad reminisce Alastair Cook and a bandaged Stuart Broad reminisce (Reuters)
Cook has been through the mill these past few months but it is beginning to look, at least until the Australians arrive next summer, as though he might come out the other side in remarkably pristine nick. He needs some more runs. A year ago this week, England won the Ashes for the third consecutive time, since when pretty much everything has gone wrong. He must have feared that these past two weeks would never arrive.

“Who would have thought?” he said. “Broady said when we were running around this morning, ‘It doesn’t seem a year ago we were lifting the Ashes’. I said, ‘It might not to you but it does to me!’

“A lot has happened in a year and over the next year... that’s the beauty of sport, that you don’t know what’s going to happen. We’ve made a big stride forward the last few weeks as a side. This is another little challenge – how do we cope when we’re up in the series? Can we finish the job? I hope next year is a lot more successful and slightly less eventful, or uneventful, you know what I mean.”

Everyone knew what he meant. Nobody wanted to remind him that with 17 Tests scheduled in 2015, five of them for the Ashes, he had not a prayer. “Events, dear boy, events,” as the former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan once averred in describing what affected the course of government. In cricket as in politics.

Cook and the coach, Peter Moores, are aware that England are far from the finished article and hence things can go wrong. They will not make the mistake over the next five days of protecting what they have. The intention is to win the match.

Much of the attention will be on Anderson and Broad, the former because he has a genuine if outside chance of breaking the record, the latter because he may take the field in a mask to protect his nose.

Ravindra Jadeja’s drop of England captain Alastair Cook may have turned the series on its head Ravindra Jadeja’s drop of England captain Alastair Cook may have turned the series on its head (PA)
There have been periods in the last year, since he took 10 wickets in the opening Test of the 2013 Ashes, when Anderson has looked to be on the slide. Sometimes he has looked as if he would rather be anywhere than on a cricket pitch, snarling his dislike of his opponents.

But in the last two matches he has been reborn, bowling with consummate skill, moving the ball both ways, he might have been muttering: “Let’s swing again like we did last summer.”

Cook paid the most handsome of tributes to Anderson as the best bowler he had played with. He said: “There have been some very good bowlers I’ve played with but for pure out-and-out skill and bowling ability there is no doubt about it.”

In the early days it was not quite like that. They are friends as well as colleagues now but Cook recalled that when he first played for Essex against Lancashire, Anderson called him everything under the sun.

“Then I went on an England ‘A’ tour with him and we never spoke,” he said. “We were called up to play for England together from Antigua to go to India and we were sitting together on the plane. The only words he had said to me before then were swear words and I was thinking, ‘This is going to be an interesting 48 hours’ to go to India. Now we’re really good friends.”

Cook’s friend has not always had the best of things at The Oval but if he does the business this week, India will be defeated.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
news
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Extras
indybest
News
peopleLiam Williams posted photo of himself dressed as Wilfried Bony
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick