Plenty of positives for England despite 9 wicket defeat in Ahmedabad
After comprehensive defeat in the first Test, England need to bounce back quickly. Praise for England’s fighting spirit was clear after a match that against all the odds, spilled into the final day.
India completed victory shortly after lunch, cruising to 80-1 in the final innings. Set a low target of 77 by England, the result never looked in doubt, even after Virender Sehwag was brilliantly caught on the long on boundary by Kevin Pietersen for 25.
Virat Kohli sealed victory with a controlled shot for four down the ground as man of the match Cheteshwar Pujara remained once again unbeaten, this time on 41. Pujara was an obvious choice for man of the match after his first innings double hundred.
Batting with patience and control for a first innings score of 206 not out, he now heads the list of run scorers in this series with a whopping 247. Add to that the fact that he doesn’t even have an average yet and nobody can fail to be impressed.
England’s gritty resistance from day 4 didn’t last long on the final morning. First Prior and then Cook succumbing to the variations of Pragyan Ojha. Prior’s batting once again saved England’s blushes and falling just 9 short of a century after such a restrained innings doesn’t do his efforts justice.
His captain followed 9 runs later after a rare lapse of concentration saw him bowled for 176. Both Cook and Prior can be forgiven for small errors after such a long grind the previous day. Together they kept England alive much longer than anyone expected, forcing India to bat again and facing 364 balls in the process for 157 runs.
After this partnership was broken, India smelt blood and moved in for the kill. The tail couldn’t replicate their captain’s efforts, Bresnan (20) and Swann (17) giving glimmers of hope as the innings concluded.
At 406 all out England may not have done enough to save the match but it is nevertheless a massive step in the right direction. After such a big defeat, the manner in which they went down fighting will impress their critics and give the whole team something to draw from as the series continues.
In some ways there are a number of positives Cook and Andy Flower can take from this match.
Prior’s reliability steadies an already wobbly middle order. With some clear selection issues to come he will be vital batting at 6 or 7. Ian Bell’s departure before the second Test for the birth of his child may well help England reshuffle the batting line up with Jonny Bairstow or Eoin Morgan likely to replace him. Bell has struggled for form away from England and his absence may be good timing for him rather than having to face being dropped further down the line.
Nick Compton made his Test debut in very difficult circumstances and all things considered he should be congratulated for his performances with Cook as the new opener. Momentum for players and consistency for the team are key and England should be wary of making too many changes at once.
The real question marks for England surround the bowling department. Only Graeme Swann caused the Indian batsman any real trouble with 6 wickets in the match. Why Monty Panesar didn’t play alongside him as the second spinner is a mystery.England will certainly need to drop the wicket-less Bresnan or Broad and include Panesar for the second Test in Mumbai. Add to this the possibility of Steven Finn’s return from injury and England’s team could have 3 or even 4 new faces lining up in four days time.
Perhaps the greatest positive to take from this match is Alastair Cook himself. His first genuine challenge as captain has seen him step up to the plate and deliver when it matters. Whatever changes England make before the next match in Mumbai, having a captain lead from the front so doggedly is invaluable to the team. If Cook continues his great form then England will always have a fighting chance in this series.
The second test begins in Mumbai on 23rd November.
Fred Charles, cricket correspondent