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England hadn't won a test series in India since 1985, something pace bowler Stuart Broad was reminded of when he got into a Twitter spat with the great Ian Botham over whether he was playing well enough to keep his place in the current England team. There was only going to be one winner:
Broad tweeted: "Before you listen to too many ex-playing 'experts' being negative, ask them if they ever won a Test series in India!
Botham then sent a tweet to Broad. He wrote: "Didn't average 40+ with the ball overseas! Not sure what I scored vs India with the bat? #justsaying"
Botham is England's record wicket-taker with 383 victims and had a batting average of 61.55 and a bowling average of 25.53 in the seven Tests he played in India.
India again turned down the chance to use the (DRS) Decision Review System in a home series, suggesting they want the on field umpires to dictate the game. I wonder why? Well, India have again been associated with match fixing through a book by betting guru Ed Hawks, who claims the 2011 India V Pakistan World Cup semi-final may have been fixed, providing worrying evidence. Match fixing is rarely about money and blackmail nearly always the driver. Looks like a good read.
England 'welcomed' Kevin Pietersen back for the tour and after the irritable South African claimed the previous captains job when Strauss was effectively forced out for not wanting KP back under any circumstance, coach Andy Flower, who was similarly undermined by KP, has also been suspiciously demoted after losing the one-day coaching roles to Ashley Giles. Flower spins it that this is merely about giving him a rest period in the year so both parties refreshed for each series, which is rather ironic as the last KP bust up was all about KP wanting time off the international test schedule. Na, deep down he knows he is being forced out and Giles will be the team coach by the summer, Pietersen the big match winner and box-office for team England. Botham was the same in his day and saw of many a coach and captain.
First Test - 14th-18th Nov
England are notoriously slow starters on tour and especially on the Sub Continent, recent hidings in Sri Lanka and the Emirates suggesting more of the same in India, which proved to be the case. They generally get in a tiss on dusty tracks in relentless heat against spin and soon in trouble in the first test in Ahmadabad although, to be fair, Sub Continent teams get in trouble in England just as easy on green swinging seamers.
These series are generally decided by who wins the toss on the first day as that's the best of the pitch you will have in the whole series in India and Dohni didn't hesitate to bat, piling them up on day one, England going with two spinners and no Monty. Sehwag played with ease and confidence for a run a ball century (115) and young Pujura at three batted all day for 98* to close India on 323-4, only three quick wickets for Swann keeping England in the game. Northampton born Graeme Swann's 194th test wicket make him England's most successful off-spinner and the same young teenager I swept to the boundary at Birchfield Rd cricket ground in Northampton against the Saints for successive fours in 1989!
Day two and the pain continued, Pujura completing an impressive workman like double-ton, only the fifth Indian to do that against England in a test. Yuvraj Singh completed his comeback from cancer with 74 to bring up the early declaration at 521-8. Swann would finish with 5-144. The decision not to play Monty was fatal, Patel a one-day international containment spinner at best. I suspect KP had got in Cooks ear to go with Patel over Monty as it was then captain KP who argued with Peter Moore's over dropping Monty that came to ahead and one of many incidents that helped Moore's dismissal and KP demoted.
England started poorly in reply and never recovered as the spinners were on straight away and the fielders were in tight around the bat like Army Ants, 41-3 at the close with debutant Compton out for 9. It didn't improve much on day three with England 97-7 and on the floor before Prior (41) rallied the tale to put on another hundred for 191 all out, spinner Ojha with 5-45. This was the sixth time England failed to make 200 in six tests on the Sub Continent against spin. India duly enforced the follow on. But England could only improve now they had a feel for the stadium, pitch and conditions Cook added to his first innings 41 off 109 balls with 74* alongside Compton's stoic 34 to close England on 111-0 in the second innings on day 3.
Day four and it was set up perfect for captain Cook to bat big, the daddy hundred as his mentor Graeme Gouch calls them. And that's exactly what he did, putting on 123 with Compton (37) and surviving a mini collapse at 199-6 from the position of strength, before the ever reliable Prior came together with the captain to put on 150. Bell failed again and averaging well below 30 in his last 18 innings as those Sub Continent turners have ripped apart his average. He would return home after the first test for the birth of his baby and so a chance for Bairstow to steal the 30-year-olds slot.
This was Cook's third century in a row as a truncated England captain (he captained England twice against Bangladesh in 2010) and the first time that had been done in test Cricket, and his eventual 176 the highest by an England captain in India and his 21st ton for England, one behind Boycotts record. Captain's averages usually fall sharply when they take the reigns. Not this one.
The following morning Prior (91) and Cook (176) couldn't keep up the resistance to try and bat out the two sessions for the draw as they fell in the first hour, Swann and Bresnan grinding out the 400 (Ohja 4-120) to set India 77 to win, which they duly knocked off by tea for the nine wicket victory. Prior and Cook had scored the bulk of England's runs in the test and our middle order continue to be dreadful on the Sub-Continent, this England's 5th defeat out of 6 in 2012 on the Sub Continent.
India beat England by 9 wickets
India 1st Innings
521 for 8 (160.0 over's)
India 2nd Innings
80 for 1 (15.3 over's)
England 1st Innings
191 all out (74.2 over's)
England 2nd Innings
406 all out (154.3 over's
2nd Test - 23rd - 27th November
India again won the toss and batted first but soon rocking as the recalled Monty Panesar got to work on a pitch turning big on the first day, reducing the home team to 119-5. But that man Pujara did it again, Dohni's secret weapon, closing the first day with another hundred, putting on century partnership with Ashwin for the seventh wicket, Pujara, echo's of Hasheen Amla in the summer, effectively 366* in the series by close.
Day two and the England spinners cleaned up the tail, Monty 5-129 and Swann passed 200 test wickets with 4-70 for 327 all-out, Pujara 137, Ashwin 68. In the seven away tests the two ex Northant's spinners have played together Monty has just come out on top but interestingly England had never won any of those tests. 200 is a hell of an effort by Northampton boy Swann as modern English test pitches are not set up for spinners at home and so many of those scalps taken abroad.
Dohni clearly felt England would crumble like the pitch like they have been on the Sub Continent on a pitch spitting turn like vipers and this day would probably decide the series. But that man Cook (87*) again getting in, sharing a stoic partnership with KP (64*) to close the day on 178-2.
Day three it got even better as Cook secured that record 4th century in a row as captain with 122 and KP finally got to grips with the mystery spinners and piled them up in the way only he can on tough pitches, his enforced rest doing him good, test century number 22, level with Cook, Boycott and Amiss and Hammond. His 186 would be his highest in this part of the world, concentration the key in Mumbai, 413 all out (Ojha 5-143). His partnership of 206 partnership with Pietersen was the highest on the ground in tests, beating the great Tendulker with Kambli. The match winner was back!! Cook at just 27-years-old could challenge Tendulker's text century record.
India's reply was woeful, Monty and Swann soon amongst them to close them on 117-7 on day three, just 29 ahead. This was the India, England destroyed two years ago.
England wrapped it up in one session on day four as India were all out for 142 (Gambhir 65), Monty taking 6-81 (11-210) and Swann with 4-43 (8-113), 19 of the twenty England wickets taken by spin. Cook and Compton duly knocked off the 58 (Compton 30*) for the ten wicket win and England now acclimatized and firm favorites for the series, 1985 the last time we beat them there.
---The 22 Hundred Club---
(85 Tests) Wally Hammond
Runs - 7,249 Runs
Av - 58.45
(85*tests) Ali Cook
Runs - 6,894
(90*Test) Kevin Pietersen
Av - 49.86
(114 Tests) Colin Cowdrey
Runs - 7,624
Av - 44.06
(108 Tests) Geoff Boycott
Runs - 8,114
Av - 47.72
3rd Test - 5-9th December
Chris Broad was dropped in favor of Steve Finn as India won the toss yet again; taking to the crease on what looked like a worn pitch. Going into the match the great Sachin Tendulker had scored 153 in ten innings, with a top score of only 27, bowled four times and LBW three times, straight balls now getting him out, suggesting the eye sight and reflexes are not what they were. But he responded here and put India in a strong position alongside Gambhir (60) with a half-century each to sit India pretty at 215-4. But once he was out on 76 India closed on 270-7 and it was England's day.
Indian test grounds were people do show up are noisy places, but not in the way other nations are. Indians are generally simple folk and blowing whistles or banging things together to make that din seems more appealing than actually sitting down and watching the game, their wide-eyed grins and smiley faces somewhat grating after a while. It's just a constant crescendo as rural Indians try to catch the TV camera with their often childish cutout tributes to their favorite player or just spend all day queuing for something. Once Tendulker is out they all go home of course.
A brilliant bowling effort was completed on day two as Anderson and Panesar finished them off for 316 with their two seamer and three spin attack, captain Dhoni finally getting a half century with 52 as last man out. But England had little trouble in reply with the same pitch and batted through two sessions for no loss, Cook completing that record 23 century for England in just 86 tests and the youngest in Test cricket to 7000 runs in the process, dethroning Sachin Tendulker no less. At just 27-years-old I still don't think Tendulker's other records are in sight and there are still twenty more test players who have scored 23 hundreds or more. It was now five tests in a row as captain with a century, a stand alone record in test cricket. Boycott was in the commentary box when he flicked the two runs he needed down to long on for the ton and you could hear the deflation in the old mans voice that this kid was going to take all of his England records. Sir Geoffrey dragged out his career to the last just to set those records. If Cook plays as long as Geoffrey he will double Tendulkers records!
Compton helped himself to a half-century (57) in an opening stand of 165, excellent unselfish wingman stuff. But once Cook secured that hundred the Somerset boy was gone as he lashed out to catch up lost time. Trott finally got a score, 87, as he and Cook put on 172 for the second wicket to sit 338-2 at tea. But when Cook had his first ever run out in first-class cricket at 190, and a strange one to, getting out of the way of the ball so it could hit the stumps, there was a slight wobble before KP settle things down with his 50th half-century or more in 91st test, Bell again failing with just 5.
Day four and England with over 500 on the board didn't have had declarations on the mind for very long as the last four wicket fell early, going from an impregnable 420-4 to 523 all-out, Ohja 4-142, Ashwin 3-183. India looked like they were up for the fight with five and a half sessions to go but slipped from 86-0 to 155-8 in the afternoon session and that was that, the two seamers taking seven wickets on a turning pitch.
The final day saw India's tail drag it out to 247 all-out with another 90 odd (Ashwin 91*) and England batting again. There was a huge wobble at 8-3 chasing 41 to win but a seven wicket win was in the bag by lunch. India had lost just 9 tests in 12 years in India until this disastrous season.
England beat India by 7 wickets
India 1st Innings: 316 all out (105.0 over's)
India 2nd Innings: 247 all out (84.4 over's)
England 1st Innings: 523 all out (167.3 over's)
England 2nd Innings: 41 for 3 (12.1 over's)
The 4th Test - 11th-15th November
A win or a draw for England and job done, the Nagpur pitch looking every inch a result one, the old Indian crazy paving cracks a plenty, the home side deploying four spinners. India dropped three players in disgust for previous efforts (not Tendulker) whilst England were busy winning the toss and soon grounding them out on a dire surface in front of a poor crowd, the new Nagpur stadium in the middle of nowhere, 199-5 their lowest first day tally in a test match for 12 years, Kevin Pietersen (73) the man to recover them from 16-2, young Joe Root also impressing on his debut with 31*.
Day two was as equally turgid with Trott (44) and debutante Root (73) doing the dog work to bring up the 200. Prior ground things on with 53 before Swann's more positive 56 would take them past 300 all-out just after tea, his first half-century in 46 innings. Roots grind was a marvel of concentration for his 229 balls and anyone who has seen this kid play in county cricket know he is a born test player, the most balls faced on England debut since Roger Toltchard, some 36 years ago. 330 looked a good score on this pitch. India's reply was familiar, all the big names gone at 81-4 to Andersen's impressive seam by the close.
As fight backs go this one was near faultless, Virat Kohli (103) and captain Dhoni putting on an impressive 200 partnership but Dhoni run out for 99, India closing the day on 297-8, just 33 behind. Another failure by Sehwag saw him claim his 17th test duck for India, the highest for any Indian test cricketer, another player distracted by IPL riches. We also got our first look at young Jadeja, forcing himself into the team after scoring his third triple hundred in domestic cricket, the only Indian to do that and only the eight person in world cricket, joining the illustrious list of Sir Don Bradman, Brian Lara, Bill Ponsford, Wally Hammond, WG Grace, Graeme Hick, and Mike Hussey.
Day four and India stopped messing about looking for a small lead against a very good attack and declared behind at 326-9, time more precious than runs on a very slow wicket. Andersen's 4th wicket took him level with Ian Botham as England's highest ever international wicket taker, Botham's record test haul of 383 well clear of Andersen's 288 but Andersen way ahead in one-day and the added bonus of Twenty20 wickets to level at 528.
Even Cook failures produce records, his 13 to go with his 1 in the first innings making him the highest ever English run scorer in India with 863, edging ahead of Mike Gatting. At 94-3 and the spinners around the bat in baking heat the test was in the balance but England kept a firm grip by the close as Trott (66*) and Bell ground them out to close on 161-3 for the 165 lead. All England need do to secure the series was bat out the morning session with no major alarms where as India needed quick wickets.
Day five and the wicket just hadn't done anything all match and wasn't about to, a poor surface for test cricket. Bell and Trott continued as they left off and bagged a century each. Neither had scored a hundred in the calendar year and so Bell's 116* extremely welcome, as was Trott's 143, putting on 208 for the 4th wicket. Hands were shook at 4pm at 352-4 dec and England had become the first test team to win a series in India since the all-conquering Aussie side back in 2004.
India drew with England
England 1st Innings: 330 all out (145.5 over's)
England 2nd Innings: 352 for 4 (154.0 over's)
India 1st Innings: 326 for 9 (143.0 over's)