Two weeks ago England crashed to their seventh defeat in ten tests, not having prevailed since the Ashes Test at Durham a full twelve months previously. Cook’s batting and captaincy were in tatters and momentum was building in the press, and amongst the fans for the axe to fall on several players, most notably Cook himself.
Having put India in to bat on an atypically green, seaming pitch at HQ, England contrived to make a dogs dinner in all three areas of the game, and it was somehow appropriate that it was a comical run out that gave the Indians only their second test triumph at Lords.
Matt Prior, however was the only casualty. Due to persistent injury England’s answer to Adam Gilchrist was horribly out of nick and grassed some vital chances. England turned to Joss Buttler instead for the next match at Southampton. Liam Plunkett missed out due to injury and was replaced by Sussex all rounder Chris Jordan.
Cue a crushing 266 run victory followed by yesterday’s win by an innings and 54 runs.
What have been the reasons for such a dramatic turn in fortunes? Here are some ideas set out in bullet point form.
* The abject failure of Indian genius batter Virat Kohli.
* No consistent opening partnership for the tourists.
* Ashwin’s baffling omission until the 4th test and then he was under bowled.
* The injury to the match winner for India at Lords, seamer Ishant Sharma.
* Donhi’s poor captaincy exacerbated by coach Duncan Fletcher’s negative mind set.
* India’s total inability to play spin.
* The Jadeja/ Anderson spat seems to have back fired on India who, by pressing charges hoped to disrupt the England dressing room.
* KP and Prior’s negative influence on the team has gone.
* Buttler’s weaknesses with the gloves compensated for by runs down the order.
* Moen Ali’s 20 wickets in the series could never have been predicted.
* The selectors gamble of playing Ballance at first drop has come off against expectations.
* England’s senior pros have stepped up to the plate which has resulted in better captaincy from Cook.
* The rub of the green has gone England’s way. Witness the Pujara LBW that wasn’t which was the catalyst for yesterday’s collapse.
However the following points cannot be ignored.
* Cook’s on going lack of form.
*Robson’s under performance
* Moen Ali is not the long term answer for the full time spinning role.
* Our second string seam attack isn’t up to the job.
* Can we get away with Buttler if the runs dry up?
My team for the Oval: Cook (C), Carberry, Ballance, Bell, Root, Moen, Buttler (+), Plunkett, Broad, Finn, Anderson. If Broad is injured Monty come in. Buttler is in form but overall I would select Foster as the gloveman.