Christmas is coming and after another day of Indian dominance what England wouldn’t give to be home already. Karun Nair made 300 and England conceded more than they ever have before in a Test match. Now they’ve got a match to save…
England 12-0 & 477 (Moeen 146; Jadeja 3-106) trail India 759-7 dec (Nair 303*; Broad 2-80) by 270 runs
Twelve weeks of touring, 11 knackered players, 10 Moeen wickets, nine Indian centuries, eight Kohli innings, seven-hundred at Chennai, six brave hundreds, five big Tests, four won tosses, three big defeats, two stand-in players and 4-0 to top it all off. Well, maybe.
As Karun Nair put on a masterclass today (300!) England’s players would have been forgiven for letting their minds wander. Maybe they began to think about what they might like from Father Christmas this year.
This is one that they’ll get. For a bit. Becoming a professional sportsman is the dream for so many, but those who make it are certainly made to sing for their supper. Modern schedules are designed around making money – which is fair enough – but they ask a lot of the players. Many of this squad will have departed the UK at the end of September and they haven’t really stopped in that time.
Schedules are unremitting for most Test nations so it’s certainly not an excuse for losing the series but it gives an indication of how tough life can become for a touring side, especially when they’re behind. The ODI side will wolf down their turkey, rip open a few presents and jump back on the plane on January 5.
Potentially a bit harsh on Adil Rashid who has given absolutely everything he has this series. He’s done pretty darn well, as well, taking 23 wickets, but his economy-rate, strike-rate and average are all higher than you’d like them to be. He hasn’t compared to Swann and Panesar of four years ago. It’s not his fault he’s England’s best option, and he’s certainly got through his overs, but how England would love to have a pair of bowlers like they did in 2012.
Good spinners don’t grow on trees but the ECB need to do more to allow spin to flourish in the county game. It doesn’t need to be so secondary behind seam, it doesn’t need to be regarded as a useful way of taking wickets only when you head to the sub-continent. The revamped domestic red-ball schedule won’t help England produce the next Swann or Panesar and they’ll continue to struggle in India (and elsewhere on the subcontinent) until they put some proper emphasis on helping young English spinners develop. Oh, and would it have been so awful to give Jack Leach a go?
A CATCHING MITT
Over the last 12 months England’s fielding has been a developing issue. It wouldn’t have changed the course of this series but far too many big chances have gone down. Virat Kohli at Mumbai and Karun Nair here have both been given lives before going on to make a double century and triple century respectively. The 2015 Ashes was marked by England’s ability to take almost everything that came their way – remember that slip-catching camp in Spain? – but that stickability hasn’t been present in India. It’s less clear how England fix it. Maybe a full-time specialist fielding coach? But could that money be better used in grassroots cricket? Unclear. Either way, England need to improve their catching.
A SETTLED TOP FOUR
Cook, Hales, Compton, Root. That’s how England started the year. Since then Vince, Ballance, Duckett, Hameed, Moeen and Jennings have all had a go and we’re no clearer on who’ll be Nos.1-4 for the first Test of next summer. Hameed was a success before he got injured and Jennings looks like he may deserve a run, but even then you’ve got some jiggery-pokery to do to fit them all in. The selectors haven’t had the best time of it. Nasser Hussain argued in the Daily Mail that the ECB should look towards Marcus Trescothick and Paul Collingwood, examples of people more in touch with the modern game. Perhaps that’s the answer.
A NEW CAPTAIN?
It might just be the time. Can Cook still want this? Can he really still have the passion and the heart to go through everything that captaincy entails? When Karun Nair is helping himself to runs in the searing heat and every one of his bowlers has been flogged around the park… does he not think to himself, ‘Yeah, I can’t do this anymore’. Maybe he looks ahead to Australia with a burning desire to right his biggest wrong. Maybe he’s had enough and he’s ready to pass it on to Joe Root. Only he knows and he’ll have a chat with old mucker Straussy to sort it all out. A big series defeat – and it still might be 4-0 – could be enough to tip him over the edge.
All Out Cricket’s coverage of the India-England Test series is in association with Southall Travel