England’s most complete performance in a Test match for more than a year threatens to be overshadowed by disciplinary issues. Their superb victory over India by 266 runs will be followed by a hearing tomorrow which could see their veteran fast bowler Jimmy Anderson banned for four matches.
Anderson was named man of the match for the second time in the series after he took seven of India’s wickets and is rapidly closing on Sir Ian Botham’s long-standing England record for Test matches.
But he and the England team have been dogged for three weeks by the serious charge he faces under the International Cricket Council (ICC) code of conduct for his part in an argument with the Indian spinner Ravindra Jadeja during the first Test at Trent Bridge.
Somehow Anderson rediscovered his best form in the third Test, taking his first five-wicket haul since the first Ashes Test of last summer and another two crucial wickets this morning in a spell of high-calibre swing bowling to help level the series 1-1.
He said after the match that he had managed to put to one side the ICC hearing: “It’s not just been this game, it’s been there since Trent Bridge. We’ve done brilliantly, the ECB [England and Wales Cricket Board] have done a great job of keeping everything separate. So once we get to the ground it was all about the cricket and how we would win the Test match – and that’s exactly what we did this week. Everyone did it brilliantly. Once we got on the field the only thoughts we had were winning.”
England won all 13 sessions of the third Test and completed their first victory in 11 Test matches 12 minutes before lunch. The most improbably prominent feature of India’s second innings of 178 all out was the off-spin bowling of Moeen Ali, the supposedly part-time bowler who had figures of 6 for 67.
This performance of huge conviction was almost entirely at odds with the brand of cricket England had played since their most recent win at the other end of the country, in Durham last August.
Their captain, Alastair Cook, scored 95 and an undefeated 70 to bring to an end a worryingly lean spell and found that almost his every move as tactician brought success. Last week there were calls for his resignation. These were not repeated today and, as Cook emphasised, the side had played to their potential for long periods.
“This summer we’ve played good cricket for one or two sessions out of three,” he said. “But here, bowling, we’ve managed to keep that pressure for the whole session. And with the bat we got greedy – that set up the game. Scoreboard pressure told and we had as good a game as you could have.”
Cook apart, the senior players all produced senior player-type performances for the first time this season. Ian Bell scored his first hundred in 20 innings, Anderson, despite again showing his less appealing side in his snarling approach to opponents, bowled beautifully, as with less success did Stuart Broad. It meant that the significant contributions of young players in the side who had never won a Test were not wasted.
“It helps,” Cook said. “From one to 11 I thought we performed really well, to a man. The guys who were questioned really delivered. It’s great to see ‘Belly’ score a big hundred. When you set the game up like we did, you get ahead of the game and can dictate it.
“It’s been a better week – we’ve won a game and I’ve scored runs. The criticism was that we were losing games and I wasn’t scoring runs. So people won’t say that today, but it’s somewhere in the middle.”
The goodwill towards Cook was obvious. Applauded repeatedly, he said he felt it as soon as he went out to bat on the first morning and was astonished to be given a standing ovation on 48 when he and Gary Ballance returned to the pavilion at lunch that day. “The weight is lifted,” he said.
“As I said at Lord’s, I felt I’d turned the corner. I was just so pleased that under that amount of pressure on the first day I managed to deliver. I’ve never experienced that at 40 not out – Gaz [Ballance] said I wouldn’t get that at Headingley. The whole week has been brilliant.”
England have named an unchanged 13 for the Fourth Test at Old Trafford starting next Thursday. But the Anderson issue continues to cloud everything. His hearing will be conducted via video conference this morning with judge Gordon Lewis in Australia. The evidence of what happened between Anderson and Jadeja before and after they left the field at Trent Bridge at lunch on the first day is likely to take up to two hours.
Anderson is being charged under level three of the code, which carries a maximum four-match ban. It is understood that he will not contest that he pushed Jadeja but will claim it was because his opponent was advancing towards him.
Jadeja’s appeal against his fine for a level one offence – he was docked 50 per cent of his match fee – will also be heard. The verdicts are unlikely to be delivered tomorrow. India insist they are sure of their ground, but so do England.