Outside Edge: England rediscover themselves and MS Dhoni proves mortal – in just the space of one Test

England's turnaround at the Ageas Bowl was quite remarkable

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The Independent Online

A week is a long time in politics. In cricket, it is only a smidgen longer than a Test match, which isn’t really so much, though some might regard that as the definition of eternity.

After England started the game at the Ageas Bowl in some disarray, their turnaround was genuinely remarkable. The experienced hands played as if questions about their form had never been asked. Moeen Ali suddenly looked like a proper spinner. And Alastair Cook’s captaincy was as dynamic as it had previously been dithering. In essence, England gave a truer display of their abilities than they had for months.

Just as extraordinary was India’s abrupt ineptitude. To a degree, their performance underlined the suspicion that they are very far from being a great side, as had been suggested by a thoroughly uninspiring warm-up against Leicestershire back in June.

M S Dhoni has near god-like status at home in India. But last week he was certainly more laity than deity. From an England point of view, another mere mortal performance at Old Trafford would be a blessing.

Finn still deadly, unlike me

The recall of Steven Finn is a heart-warming tale of redemption. If accounts of his travails last winter are even half-right, then his return to the Test fold is an exceptional triumph of hard work and self-belief. Anyone who has ever suffered a bout of the yips, at whatever level of cricket, will know how helpless it can leave its victim.

Whether Finn makes the starting XI remains to be seen. But if he does, good luck to him. He and I were – to my mind – in the same boat during the Ashes, being frankly “unselectable”. My own form is certainly on the up – if a recent tennis ball game is anything to go by. But my problem of being “unknown” and “not that good” remains, seemingly, insurmountable.

Video: Steven Finn 'getting back to his best'

KP v Freddie – game on?

This season’s T20 blast has been broadly successful. Regular Friday scheduling has been popular and there have been some terrific contests. It is a shame that England’s Test players have largely been absent. Then again, many are not exactly T20 specialists, so the importance of their presence can be overstated.

But the competition does need recognisable names. In that context, it is no surprise that Andrew Flintoff’s return to Lancashire colours was loudly trumpeted. He may only have taken the field twice, injuries having otherwise kept him on the sidelines. Still, five wickets in eight pacy overs at little more than 12 runs apiece are not to be sniffed at, especially after half a decade away from cricket.

That other big beast of the game, Kevin Pietersen, has been a much more regular starter for Surrey. But if statistics alone are anything to go by, his batting is not the force it once was – 212 runs in 11 innings is a modest return, particularly when they have been scored at a lesser strike rate than any of his top-order team-mates.

Nevertheless, injuries and semi-final results permitting, there remains the possibility of KP meeting Freddie in the Blast final at Edgbaston on 23 August. That would surely be the superstar match-up the tournament has been waiting for.

Kilimanjaro in the swing

Mount Kilimanjaro may not have quite the same tradition of cricket as The Kia Oval or Headingley. But next month Africa’s greatest peak will host a world record-breaking attempt to play a match at 5,785 metres. 

The event aims to raise money for several worthy causes, including Cancer Research UK. Yet the key question – as yet unanswered by science – is what impact such altitude will have on the art of reverse swing.