Cook joins three of our greats after sealing Test series victory in India
00:51 GMT, 18 December 2012
As the England dressing room reverberated to the sound of Slade’s 'Merry Christmas Everybody' on Monday, it was worth recalling just how unfestive they all felt after losing the first Test by nine wickets at Ahmedabad almost a month ago.
Not even solid second-innings batting from Alastair Cook and Matt Prior could varnish the truth: here was a team, with a new captain, a barely reintegrated star batsman and an apparently impotent seam attack, struggling on Asian pitches yet again.
But as India sloped away, scarcely able to comprehend the manner of their defeat and with the local groundsman scratching his head as he explained that the pitch had not broken up as he intended, England were celebrating one of their greatest overseas triumphs.
Top work: Alastair Cook joins an elite list of captains who won Tests in India
Only three other England captains have won Test series in India: Douglas Jardine in 1933-34, a year after his Body-line victory in Australia; Tony Greig in 1976-77; and David Gower in 1984-85. Now Cook can add himself to the list.
England’s first win in India in nearly 28 years felt as special as the Ashes victory of two winters ago, their first in Australia for 24. But their success here was far more unexpected, not least because of England’s travails on three separate trips to Asia in 2012: a 3-0 defeat by Pakistan in the UAE, a 1-1 draw salvaged at the last in Sri Lanka and a botched defence of the World Twenty20.
While conditions in Australia, where pitches tend to be much bouncier and less prone to turn, were more suited to the English style, the Indians went out of their way to make life uncomfortable for Cook’s men — even going as far as to deny them meaningful practice against spin in their three warm-up games.
After Ahmedabad, the tourists were in danger of becoming a laughing-stock. And history was against them: not since Gower’s victory had any side claimed a series in India after falling behind. England were not just fighting their own track record but every other visiting team’s, too.
History: Douglas Jardine (left) was England's first captain to win a Test there
In that respect, this win surpassed the Ashes triumph under Andrew Strauss because England never trailed Australia, but were only pegged back to 1-1 after losing in Perth. And it recalled the second half of Nasser Hussain’s famous subcontinental double in 2000-01, when England followed up a 1-0 victory over Pakistan with a 2-1 defeat of Sri Lanka after a hammering in the first Test at Galle. Those wins, too, came out of the blue.
Greig’s win ranks highly on any list of success on away tours, not least because England won the first three Tests of a five-match series — almost unheard of among touring sides to India.
Going further back, it’s difficult to overlook the claims of the Ray Illingworth-led win in Australia in 1970-71, when England did not earn a single lbw decision in six Tests.
Then there is the 3-1 win Down Under in 1954-55, when Len Hutton contemplated throwing himself into the River Brisbane after inserting Australia in the first Test at the Gabba — and lost by an innings.
A controversial choice would be the 4-1 win under Jardine in 1932-33, based as it was on the captain’s ruthless leg theory as he sought to silence Don Bradman.
Provocative: Jonathan Trott has enraged Indians in recent weeks
Although Jonathan Trott has enraged the Indians a couple of times over the past few weeks, England’s win here has largely been a triumph of diplomacy.
But for sheer shock value, India 2012 will take its place among the very best of England’s overseas wins.
Even Cook admitted last night that the dressing room had questioned itself after the first Test. And when his Indian counterpart MS Dhoni used his victory press conference to demand another turner in Mumbai, England may have feared the worst.
Cook’s win — like Hutton’s, Hussain’s and Gower’s — was fashioned in adversity. And it took place in a country Englishmen have traditionally dreaded. He will find it hard to match.
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