The highly competitive and much-anticipated series between England and India ended with the hosts routing the visiting team 4-1, but the scoreline betrayed the level of intensity and competition that was on offer throughout the 5 Test matches. With nothing much to choose from in the fast bowling department, and with the batsmen from both sides stooping into inconsistencies, it was the all-rounders who ultimately stole the limelight away. While India’s Hardik Pandya failed to reign after an impressive innings in the third Test, England were guided by the efforts of Chris Woakes, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali and Sam Curran who impressed with both bat and ball to help England seal the series.
Although they end the summer on a high, England have a few areas to sort out before a winter away from home and the Ashes next year.
The beginning of the end
Alastair Cook ensured plenty of teary-eyes at the Oval this week as England’s talisman announced his retirement after a draining 18-month period where runs deluded him. However, the fairy-tale could not have been more perfect as he walked away with a fifty and a century in the two innings of his Test match that earned him the Man of the Match award.
James Anderson too was engulfed in his own moment of glory as he surpassed Glenn McGrath in the wicket-takers tally to make the series even more memorable. However, with Cook not being around anymore and with the duo of Anderson and Stuart Broad not expected to stay on for that much longer, the woes will only double for England going forward.
The opening conundrum bloats
That England had tried on 12 openers alongside Cook since Andrew Strauss’ retirement was well known. However, with his departure, Joe Root’s side have a greater issue at hand – finding not one but two solid Test openers. Not only was Cook a part of a dying breed of batsmen who preferred to focus on technique and defence in Test cricket rather than on the power and ingenuity of white-ball cricket, he had also, over the years, handed England some fine victories.
Most cricketers in the current era choose to ply their trade in the T20 format to become household names overnight, and hence lack the application and the grit to become long-term Test players. In all likelihood, Keaton Jennings who would have faced the axe in the next series had Cook not retired, will hold on to his spot as the senior opener whilst England give either Rory Burns, Joe Denly or Darly Mitchell a go.
The emergence of Root – as a batsman and captain
It is not easy to lead a high-profile team especially when the results have not been in favour. After a poor Ashes tour Down Under and an exhausting tour to New Zealand, the English team had high hopes that they could get back to form when Pakistan came calling early in the summer.
However, a heavy defeat at Lord’s in the first Test pushed them back even further and though they were able to turn the tide at Headingley, facing India, the number 1 ranked Test team in the world, was an altogether different proposition. But by keeping his nerve at Edgbaston and showing off his authority at the Ageas Bowl, Root showed that despite the many issues plaguing English cricket, he is a captain who can make thing happen. After a Test century in the last innings of the series, the Yorkshireman emerges out with his disposition still intact; his aura still reputable.
The Indians run out of steam
Entering the series as two evenly matched sides, India failed miserably in their attempts to match the quality that England possess. Though the Ishant Sharmas and Jasprit Bumrahs outbowled their rivals most of the times, impressing with their accuracy and swing, the team selections coupled with the poor form of the batsmen and the inability to grasp onto the situation when the match was theirs for the taking led to the dismal 1-4 scoreline.
Dropping Cheteshwar Pujara in the first game, persisting with Shikhar Dhawan, playing Kuldeep Yadav at a swinging Lord’s or allowing Ravichandran Ashwin to take the field despite an apparent injury proved disastrous for Team India, and along with the inability of the batters to come together and perform as a unit together match-after-match, the tour to England ended contrary to what was hoped. Virat Kohli remained the lone man standing on most occasions and eventually, he too had run out of steam by the series ended.
An impressive bowling attack for England
Along with Anderson and Broad – the warhorses for England over the years – a number of all-rounders emerged to not only perform but to also make a striking impact in the series. Stokes changed the game at Birmingham and in his absence in the second Test, it was Woakes who pitched in with a match-winning contribution.
Sam Curran was the Player of the Match due to his performances with both bat and ball in the first and the fourth games and even when the condition was not in favour of England’s swing bowlers, Moeen Ali came in and won the game at a dusty Southampton, the conditions of which were very similar to the ones that are found back home in India. With the side touring Sri Lanka next, the line-up will need to prove that their showing was not a one-off, though.