England vs. India, 1st Test 2014: Has Stuart Binny Sealed a Spot for Lord's?

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England vs. India, 1st Test 2014: Has Stuart Binny Sealed a Spot for Lord's?
Gareth Copley/Getty Images

The first Test between England and India at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, ended in a tame draw, but that wasn't before a heart-in-mouth morning session for the visitors on Day 5 when a middle-order collapse left them struggling to save the match.

India should never have reached a stage where they would struggle to save the Test given the position they were in at tea on Day 3, with England still 252 runs behind in the first innings and with just three wickets in hand.

Nonetheless, the Indians would have had an uneasy lunch on Day 5, when England were barging through the door and trying to force an unbelievable win. Then, to the visitors' rescue, came the most unlikeliest of characters.

Stuart Binny's name was doing the rounds on social media ever since he was named in India's 18-man squad for the series back in May.

The 29-year-old all-rounder was coming off a solid Indian Premier League and a record-breaking bowling performance in a one-dayer in Bangladesh, but there were many sceptics in the Indian media when it came to his selection for such an important tour.  

The argument against Binny was that his medium-paced seam bowling was not going to trouble any of the English batsmen and his sloggy batting in the lower-middle order wasn't going to win India a Test.

The voices grew louder when he was given his first Test cap in the very first match of the series, ahead of the more experienced all-rounder, Ravichandran Ashwin, who was also the better bowler.

Binny validated all the doubts in the first innings, when he lasted all of 11 deliveries while batting, scoring a solitary run, following which his skipper allowed him to turn his arm over for only 10 of India's 145 overs bowled to England.

Thus, when Binny walked out to bat in the second innings, with India precariously placed at 184 for six, it was almost as if the Englishmen on the field were not the only ones hoping to get him out soon.

The media and Twitterati needed a fall guy in case India lost the match. However, Binny had decided that he wasn't going to be that guy.

In the IPL, Binny had carved the reputation of being a pinch-hitting slog-minded batsman, who came in at Nos. 6 or 7 and helped his team get some quick runs in the death overs.

However, the Binny that turned up at Trent Bridge on Day 5 was a different breed. He was a much more restrained batsman, but no less enjoyable and productive.

The Bangalore boy provided the first glimpse of his class when he leaned into a full-length delivery outside off-stump from Liam Plunkett and handsomely drove it on his front foot through the covers for four.

A few overs later, he displayed his back-foot prowess as he cracked Ben Stokes through the same region for another boundary.

Together with Ravindra Jadeja (25), Binny got India safely through to lunch without further loss. The duo carried on in the afternoon session and slowly pushed England out the door.

Jadeja fell in the first hour after lunch, but Binny strolled along with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who was fresh from a half-century in the first innings.

Under pressure, Binny batted responsibly and smartly, at just the right rate to not allow the  game to get stagnant. It wasn't long before he reached a fifty in his debut Test, providing the best possible response to his critics, many of whom had to eat their words.

For his Rajasthan Royals fans, he then offered a few snippets of his Twenty20 self, as he reverse-swept Moeen Ali for four. England's part-time spinner was later treated with more disdain as Binny danced down the track and whacked him inside-out over extra cover for a six.

Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Binny's match-saving innings was ended by an umpiring error 22 runs short of what would have been a fairytale hundred, albeit pointless as it would not have helped India win the match.

However, his half-century was the only thing that stood between India conceding a demoralising 1-0 lead in the series, given how they had played on the first three days.

And so, a man whose selection had been slated from all corners for four days of a Test match, came to the team's rescue when it mattered most.

Is Binny's spot in the side for the second Test safe?

It all depends on the nature of the surface that will welcome the two teams at Lord's. The spinners, like the fast bowlers, got absolutely no help from the lifeless Trent Bridge pitch and if Lord's is a anything similar then trust India to go in with the same line-up.

Here's what Indian captain MS Dhoni had to say in the post-match presentation, per ESPN Cricinfo:

We haven't had a seaming all-rounder but Stuart Binny can be someone who can really contribute for us in the future. I don't regret not playing R Ashwin because there was no help for the spinner. We had good combinations and I was happy with the bowling attack.

However, Ashwin does have two Test hundreds to his name on similar flat surfaces and thus it could be argued that he is an equally capable, if not better, batsman.

His off-spin could trouble England's six left-handed batsmen, assuming they play the same team, and he would also definitely be trusted to bowl more than 10 overs in an innings.

England have added slow left-arm orthodox spinner Simon Kerrigan to their squad for the second Test, per the Daily Mail, which could perhaps point towards a pitch with some assistance for the tweakers.

Or, it could just be that England were motivated by Jadeja's bowling performance, who didn't pick up any wickets but did enough to trouble the batsmen by exploiting the footmarks.

If Binny does end up missing out, it would be a cruel blow considering the importance of his knock on Sunday. For a debutant to show such maturity, character and temperament in a high-pressure situation, he deserves to keep his spot.

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