England vs India comment: Quick changes in fortune should perhaps not come as such a surprise
England secured the series with victory on day three of the Fifth Test
Sunday 17 August 2014
When you schedule five Test matches into a 42-day window, perhaps it is no surprise that you get a series dominated by quick turnarounds.
There have been the pitches, from one so lifeless in the first Test at Trent Bridge that the ICC decided to investigate it, to a pitch so green at Lord’s it looked like the world’s most half-hearted entry into the Chelsea Flower Show.
Then there was Gary Ballance, one minute a shirtless, self-styled ‘drunken b*****d’, the next a centurion at Lord’s and Southampton and looking like the natural successor to Jonathan Trott, albeit with a greater penchant for Nottingham’s nightclubs.
The reputation of India’s batsmen has undergone its own mini volte-face as well, with Virat Kohli suffering even more than the rest. He arrived being lauded as the only man who could challenge AB de Villiers for the title of best batsman in all formats of the game, he ends the series with an average of 13.40 and only 22 runs more than James Anderson, who batted five innings less – nobody’s calling him the new Tendulkar any more.
Moeen Ali has seen a reversal of a very different kind, each one of his 19 wickets silencing more and more doubters as the series progressed, but his form with the bat trailing off badly.
However by far the greatest and most surprising turnaround of all has been the form of both these sides.
Two Tests into this series, England’s prospects were looking very dismal. They had turned a glorious opportunity for victory into a humiliating defeat at Lord’s, stretching their winless run to ten Test matches. Like a newly-hatched turtle desperately scrabbling its way towards the sea, Peter Moores’ new era was looking under threat before it had even really got going.
India on the other hand seemed to be on the verge of a great series, they had even managed to do it without selecting their best team. And with Ishant Sharma recording career-best figures, it seemed the cricketing gods really were on their side.
Less than a month later though things could not look more different. India’s loss at The Oval is their third worst in history, and the first time they have ever lost consecutive Tests in just three days.
Their batting has become woeful, their final capitulation of the series so diabolical you imagine Geoffrey Boycott could chunter on about its ineptitude for the remaining two and a half days that this match was scheduled to go on for.
England meanwhile have done the reverse, senior players finding form just when it was needed and driving away the vultures that were circling ever closer to Alastair Cook. Suddenly this is a team that mixes exciting young talent with a few seasoned veterans and that could start to dream of an exciting Test future.
But then perhaps the quick turnaround is really at the heart of what makes Test cricket so intriguing, from the sleepy afternoon session transformed by a quick burst of wickets, to the out of form batsmen gritting out a career-saving century, as both sides have learnt this summer the picture in this game can change very quickly.
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