5 Takeaways from the England vs. India 1st Test
The first chapter in the much-anticipated Test series between India and England delivered plenty of quality and drama: two terrific centuries, two record-breaking partnerships, some fine bowling and several momentum swings.
Five days of absorbing cricket threatened to lead to victory for both teams on several occasions. However, the end result was a stalemate.
In the aftermath of this see-sawing encounter, the following slides contain the Top 5 takeaways.
England Profoundly Miss Graeme Swann
Just one year ago, Graeme Swann was considered the finest spin bowler in the world. His accomplished twirling helped propel his country to victory against Australia in the England-hosted Ashes, taking a series-high 26 wickets.
After impotent performances in the first three Australia-hosted Ashes tests, Swann stunned the cricket world by retiring from all forms of the game.
His absence has left a gaping void in the England team, who are yet to find a suitable replacement—if one exists that is. At Nottingham, with one wicket required to dismiss India in the first innings, Swann’s ability to mop up the tail might have seen their game-swinging, 10th-wicket partnership of 111 extinguished much earlier.
Renowned for being able to inflict damage on unresponsive pitches, Swann could have also been a menace to India in their second innings on the fourth and fifth days. To his credit, Moeen Ali bagged three wickets in the second dig, but he was unable to maintain pressure over long periods. His overall return of 4-202 demonstrates his mostly ineffectual bowling.
Although his home County arena for many years, Trent Bridge was not Swann's happiest hunting ground. But his experience, as well as 14 career Test wickets there at under 40, could have made a big difference as England struggled to take Indian wickets.
India Cannot Put Teams Away
With England pressed up against the ropes on day three of the first Test, India had a golden opportunity to hammer home their advantage and go 1-0 up in this series. At 202-7, England were still 56 runs shy of potentially having to follow on. However, three wickets and 294 runs later, India had gone from a dominant position to facing a first-innings deficit.
This is not the only time in recent history that India have squandered opportunities to bury a vulnerable opponent. They were stifled in matches against both South Africa and New Zealand having gained a stranglehold on the games.
Last December against the Proteas, India set the hosts a winning target of 458 in the first Test. With a day and a half to reach the target, South Africa almost pulled off the unthinkable. At 450-7, they finished only eight runs short in what would have been the greatest successful run chase in Test cricket history.
New Zealand also staged an incredible comeback in Wellington this past February. At 94-5 in their second innings, the Black Caps still trailed India by 152 runs with an innings in hand. With the match seemingly set-up, India were denied victory again, chiefly by Brendan McCullum’s incredible innings of 302.
With the inability to kill off opponents, it is hard to see India breaking their three-year streak of road series defeats this summer.
England's Batting Remains Brittle
A first innings score of 496 should not mask the fact that England’s batting line-up is vulnerable at the moment. A dramatic collapse in the middle session of Day 3 (74-6) put them under enormous pressure at 205-7. Thankfully, two big partnerships—including the highest-ever in Test cricket for the 10th wicket—rescued their innings.
Inexperience is a prominent factor in England’s troubles. Gary Ballance, Sam Robson and Moeen Ali have each played just four test matches or fewer. Additionally, all-rounder Ben Stokes has only donned the Three Lions cap on five occasions.
Despite each of them scoring centuries in their nascent international careers, possessing the nerve to stay cool under pressure, as well as their ability to make appropriate shot selections will be continually tested in this long, tight series.
Additionally, two slumping veterans are also not currently helping England’s cause. Alastair Cook (zero 100s in last 25 innings) and Ian Bell (28.69 average in last 16 inns) have contributed little to the team recently.
Joe Root’s prolific scoring (413 runs at 136.67) so far this summer has been the nation’s saviour. Just imagine what England’s plight would be without the Yorkshireman’s immense productivity.
Lower Order Runs Will Be Key in This Series
The lower order of both teams has already made a significant impact on this series. In the first Test, two record-breaking partnerships late in each teams’ first innings swung momentum toward their side.
With England’s aforementioned spin-bowling issues, and India having their own troubles closing out games, wagging tails could continue to play a big role in the matches to come.
Similar to the England team, India’s batting line-up also contains several inexperienced batsmen at this level. Players who they are counting on to score runs—Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja and Stuart Binny—have each played less than 10 Test matches. Their ability to consistently score runs will be something to watch.
With more batting collapses exposing tails in the upcoming tests, look for each teams’ bottom halves to potentially decide the outcome of games.
It Could Be a Long Series for Shikhar Dhawan
Since making his debut against Australia last year, Shikhar Dhawan has had an impressive start to his Test career, averaging 44.23 in eight matches.
However, on his first visit to English shores, the left-handed batsman has looked troubled at the crease. In five innings, Dhawan has managed just 116 runs. This includes a pair of failures (six and nine) against an under-strength Derbyshire team in India’s second tour game.
After scoring only 12 in the first innings at Nottingham, Dhawan looked more like a panicked limited-overs player than a patient Test player in his second knock. After plundering six quick boundaries, he impatiently hit a return catch to Moeen Ali for 29.
It is not likely that Dhawan will see a batsman’s paradise of the Trent Bridge kind again this series. With England’s fine pace bowling creating more headaches as the weeks roll on, a dejected traipse back to the Indian dressing room may be a recurring theme for the opener.
All stats in this article are courtesy of espncricinfo.com
Please follow me on Twitter: @jdunc1979