Pakistan a truer Test

Henry Blofeld on the tasks England's cricketers face despite their series triumph
Click to follow
The Independent Online
It was appropriate that the last day of this short series against India should have been enlightened by another exhibition of stroke play by Saurav Ganguly. In spite of two hundreds by Sachin Tendulkar, this series will be remembered longest for the emergence of Ganguly with his brilliant centuries in each of the last two Tests.

Although India will take a defeat home with them they have, with the establishment of Ganguly and Raoul Dravid as fully fledged Test batsmen, gained rather more from the series than England. These two will be even more important to them for they may now have reached the moment when Mohammad Azharuddin leaves Test cricket.

It is not often that a young man - there is some doubt as to whether Ganguly celebrated his 23rd or 24th birthday on Monday - makes such an impressive entrance into the Test arena. From the moment he walked out to bat in his first Test innings at Lord's he has looked a player of the highest class.

Even in that first Test innings his walk to the middle was relaxed and almost unconcerned, an impression he continued to give in whatever he did at Lord's and Trent Bridge.

His defensive technique is excellent, his strokes are all impeccably formed and he bats with something of the easy, angular grace which seems to be the prerogative of left-handers. His seam bowling is not negligible either.

Dravid's emergence has been scarcely less emphatic and he has displayed many of the qualities shown by Ganguly, not least as far as his temperament is concerned. India are indeed fortunate to have found two such talented young men - Dravid is 23.

For England, it has been a start. Victory in the one-day series has done something to banish the memory of the disastrous limited-overs cricket in South Africa and Pakistan, in the World Cup, during the winter. Victory in the first Test then put everyone in the right mind for the more serious business of the summer.

The Edgbaston pitch played into England's hands but the drawn Lord's Test put it all back into a truer perspective. Even so, Nasser Hussain's arrival is as big a gain as Ganguly's is for India, and it now looks as if that troublesome No 3 spot has at last found the right occupant.

Pakistan will provide tougher opposition. Before the end of August it would be nice to think that the best spinner in England, Phillip Tufnell, will be back in his rightful position and that Nick Knight's fingers do not continue to get into trouble. It would be a help, too, if Graeme Hick could clear his muddled head.

Victory over India was a start but there is still plenty to do before we can look Australia in the face.