A series which billed the two highest-ranked test sides looked set to offer a bout which would live long in the memory. Ultimately, it was an Indian summer which promised much but failed to deliver.
The team which played their part reaped the rewards as England stormed to a 4-0 whitewash and in the process leapfrogged India to the summit of the ICC test rankings.
India’s performances after Lords fell not too far short of waving the white flag as they slumped to three further defeats, with two by an innings as England’s players enjoyed uncontested dominance with bat and ball.
There is no disputing England’s new title. Some have questioned the strength of the current opposition, but the fact remains that you can only beat what is put in front of you.
All components of England’s side were in top order for the entirety of the four matches. Three double hundreds were scored by the top order and, again, they were able to cover each other's failures.
Stuart Broad came to the rescue twice, at Lords and Trent Bridge, to steal back momentum from India when they were on top.
Throughout the series, the hosts kept quiet a batting lineup used to stealing all the headlines with only Rahul David slipping through England’s stronghold. Sachin Tendulkar was only able to score 273 at an average of 34, with James Anderson in particular holding the wood over the little master’s head.
In the buildup to the series, much was made of the expected impact of Graeme Swann but the off spinner had to wait until the final test to make his mark. The England seamers’ incredible joint performance negated Swann’s opportunities as he bowled 73 overs in the opening 3 tests, just 4 more overs than he was given during the final match at the Oval.
While England’s performances have cemented their standing at No. 1, Matt Prior also managed some consolidating of his own. With the gloves and with the bat, the England keeper proved beyond all doubt that he is the best No. 7 in the world and exhibited his continued improvements behind the stumps.
The strength and depth of England’s pool of players came to the forefront early on at Trent Bridge with the injury to Chris Tremlett. Not only did Tim Bresnan come in and perform well, he also slotted into the team mentality of the bowling unit.
Where England adapted to injury and called on a talented list of backup players, India could not.
Zaheer Khan’s injury showed the frailties in India’s bowling reserves and the strength of those around him. The loss of their star bowler seemed to immediately drain all enthusiasm and desire from a team with plenty to play for.
Their lackadaisical efforts in the field left much to be desired and set the tone for failure throughout.
Their one shining light came in the form of Rahul Dravid, but unfortunately he played the role of the sun in their solar system. His 461 runs couldn’t keep India close to England but instead showed that there was some fight in an otherwise flat dressing room.
Only at Lords in England’s second innings and their first at Trent Bridge did India ever threaten the hosts with the ball for any prolonged period of time. The attack lacked any serious pace and only Praveen Kumar left with his reputation improved as the rest simply failed.
India could only manage 47 English wickets this summer with England taking all possible 80.
These sides now face very different paths.
India must take an evaluation of their side and move towards blooding in youth with many of their players reaching the end of the road. Furthermore, the attitude and commitment will be of great concern to Duncan Fletcher. This needs to be instilled in their seemingly substandard preparations.
For England, they focus on cementing their greatness as many have tipped this side as the country’s best in test cricket.
While England’s cricketers circled the Oval boundary with the ICC test championship mace, Sir Ian Botham was already casting his wise eyes ahead.
He now predicts at least 5 years of English dominance. With such a talented current side and extensive pool of backup players, it’s hard to argue.
One thing is for sure: The visit of South Africa next summer should be everything this series promised and wasn’t.