Lawrence Booth: England were dominant but India took their eye off the ball
10:47 GMT, 17 December 2012
In the end, it was easy. If you’d told England supporters after the first-innings debacles at Ahmedabad with ball and bat that their team could afford to block out the final five sessions of the fourth Test to make sure of a series win for the annals, they would have asked what you were on and where they could get some.
But in providing the ballast for England’s series-clinching 352 for 4, Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell – the two centurions from Warwickshire – merely underlined the momentum shift that has played itself out over the past few weeks.
Dominant at Ahmedabad, India got cocky. MS Dhoni started asking for pitches designed for the sole purpose of humiliating England and wreaking revenge for 2011. They did what no cricketer should ever do: they took their eye off the ball.
Leading from the front: England captain Alastair Cook was dominant with the bat
England, meanwhile, were fortified by events in the second half of the first Test. Alastair Cook, a colossus in this series until he was defeated in Nagpur by negative bowling, a duffer of a pitch and the umpiring of Kumar Dharmasena, made 176 and Matt Prior 91. India’s spinners, it turned out, were no Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman or Rangana Herath.
It helped that England picked the right team in Mumbai. In came Monty Panesar for Tim Bresnan, and a pitch of pace and bounce played right into their hands – for the inclusion of Panesar, with his extra pace, meant England now possessed the superior spin attack.
In a spin: England's spin bowlers of Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar out performed the Indian spinners
It helped that Kevin Pietersen had a post-reintegration point to prove. For attacking intent, only Virender Sehwag’s opening-day century at Ahmedabad could even begin to live with Pietersen’s 186 at the Wankhede.
Batting for glory: Jonathan Trott was able to bat for the majority of the final day to see England home to the draw they needed in the final Test
And it helped that Cook, having told his players that – when it came to fluffing their lines against spin in Asia – enough was enough, was a captain on a mission.
At Kolkata, Jimmy Anderson joined in the fun, finding reverse-swing that proved beyond his Indian counterparts, and combining with Steven Finn on the third afternoon in another game where the nature of the pitch had proved a pre-match distraction for the Indians.
And at Nagpur, England won an important toss – at last! – and so were able to keep control of their destiny on a pitch that ensured the fourth Test was played in slow motion. Joe Root proved an inspired pick, and Anderson was outstanding once more, especially on the third evening, when India’s hopes of a big first-innings lead evaporated in an hour.
For many reasons, this must rank as one of England’s finest series wins – home or away. They arrived with a reputation as poor players of spin in Asian conditions, and with the Pietersen saga still a tangible undercurrent.
They had a new captain, who could have been granted a tougher assignment for his first series as full-time leader. They were up against a team that had lost only four series at home out of 40. And they were written off after the first Test.
At least in Australia two years ago they arrived with hope and a little expectation. Here, victory has been a bolt from the blue. At the end of a wondrous year for British sport, the cricketers have finally joined in.
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