Will the third Test be a turning point for England? As the dust settles on England’s first Test victory in over a year, the focus going forward must now be on continuing their upturn in fortunes.
Even as Alistair Cook trudged to the pavilion five short of his first century since May last year, the residing feeling at the Oval was that the struggling captain had finally beaten a personal demon.
The third Test also saw Ian Bell reach 167, his best innings since winning the seemingly cursed ‘Player of the Year’ award. And yet, regardless of these personal milestones, head coach Peter Moores will be hoping that England push forward, rather than stepping backwards.
Prior to today, England had not won a Test match since the summer Ashes in 2013.
That streak had seen the back of Andy Flower, Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott, Graeme Swann, and just last week, Matt Prior.
However, with relatively little experience, Prior’s replacement Jos Buttler, and newly-installed spin maestro Moeen Ali both played pivotal roles in England’s win.
Buttler dispelled any doubts about whether he is ready for the longer format, blasting a 85 off 83 balls before taking six catches behind the stumps.
Meanwhile, Ali may have courted controversy with his ‘Free Gaza’ wristband – which the ICC has since banned him from wearing – but he secured his first five-wicket haul.
And in typical fashion, James Anderson and Stuart Broad led from the front, with a humble Anderson seemingly baffled at how he had won man-of-the-match when so many of his team mates had stepped up to the plate.
No turning back
England must make a conscious effort not to allow the past year to alter their mind-set.
Their transformation from the old guard into a new-look outfit has certainly been an uncomfortable process, bidding goodbye to countless Ashes heroes, and welcoming in the lesser known.
But with the series level at 1-1, and even more importantly, with confidence restored, England have a very real chance of going on to win the last two Tests. The challenge will be whether Cook and co are able to replicate their performances displayed at the Oval.
A disappointing number turned out to watch England seal Moores’ first victory since returning as head coach, but with the side back up and running, that should improve for the fourth Test.
The start of the second Moores-era has been tainted by the difficulties of its precursor. The ECB now has a chance to change that, and Moores still has a point to prove.