England looked like a completely different team in Mumbai as they totally outplayed India across all areas of the game to pull the series score back to 1-1. There were noticeable performances from key players and the most encouraging thing for England fans seems to be the way the side and management seem to have learnt from past perils against spin.
Monty Panesar came into the side for the Test match and looked like the best bowler from either team. He took 11 wickets in the game to make it seem bizarre why he wasn’t included in the team for the first Test. Not bad for a left arm spinner who apparently doesn’t have much variation. India wanted a spinning track in Mumbai and it back fired on them big time.
In a batting sense we didn’t really learn too much that we didn’t already know. Alastair Cook has turned into the Mr. Reliable of the side with another century to add to the one he made in the first Test match. Kevin Pietersen just missed out on a double century in one of the greatest innings from an England batsman in living memory. The ECB and coaches deserve huge credit for getting the off field issues with Pietersen sorted out so he can do what he does best.
The innings from Pietersen addressed questions over how he plays spin. He’s now scored a double hundred in Australia, a score of over 150 in Sri Lanka and another against India in Mumbai, all against left arm spinners. More often than not he gets it right and makes big scores which help England into very strong positions.
On the bowling front it was all about Panesar and Graeme Swann. The pace that Panesar bowls it means he can get the ball to turn off the surface and it gives batsmen almost no time to react. Swann used all of his experience to back up Panesar and also to show that he is without doubt, the best off spinner in world cricket as he cashed in with eight wickets in the game.
So it all leads us to the point of what England have to look at ahead of the third Test match. Ian Bell will come back into the middle order in place of Jonny Bairstow having flown home for the birth of his child. Steven Finn is unlikely to play which means the under pressure Stuart Broad will have another chance to show why he deserves to be in the team.
India are unlikely to ask for a spinning pitch in the next match following the way England played in Mumbai which means it may not be so easy to get 20 Indian wickets. The toss could be important as a flat pitch is likely but if there is any hardness in the wicket at all then England have the tools to make the most of that.
England look in good shape and they look balanced. They have the luxury if being able to go with three seamers and two spinners if they choose to do so which would mean Samit Patel missing out. However, if England need to go to spin, they have the world class players that allow this, if they need to go to pace, they have one of the best seam attacks in world cricket.
It’s looking good.
image: © gareth1953