What a difference three Test matches make. After the dramatic victory at Lords many, including this writer, were questioning Alastair Cook’s credentials as captain, if he could manage the weight of expectation of being England’s best batsman with those of being captain.
He has not allayed all of those fears, he has still not scored a century in the following matches, though three 50s in four innings have helped his cause considerably and it would appear his captaincy is now beyond question for the time being.
Captaincy beyond question
As is often the case, relative fluency with the bat has helped his captaincy as he has looked significantly more comfortable in the role, making fielding and bowling changes before they were necessary rather than following batsman’s shots around, which is what he had been doing earlier in the summer against Sri Lanka and in the first two Tests against India.
Of course, he has been helped by a considerable improvement in all aspects of his team. This team is one that thrives on confidence and the victory in Southampton after such a disappointing performance at Lord's gave them precisely that.
Gary Ballance is exactly what England have been looking for at three since the unavailability of Jonathan Trott in the winter, and Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad have led the line wonderfully with able back-up options in Moeen Ali, Chris Jordan and Chris Woakes.
Each batsman, other than perhaps Sam Robson has excelled at different times during the series to dismantle a relatively lacklustre India bowling attack.
Helped by India
As good as England have been, India have, at times in this series, been utterly abject in their performances. This was exemplified by their final collapse in the second innings at The Oval that saw them bowled out for under 100 runs.
Many of the players went down entirely without any fight and looked like they were not interested in the game. Whether this is a marked point in the importance of the IPL and the decline of Test cricket in India remains to be seen.
But it would appear to be in vast need of an injection of enthusiasm in the game, particularly if long overseas tours are to be the continued order of business for this Indian side.
England now take a long break from Test cricket leading up to the World Cup in Australia, but if they can continue this form, find a permanent opening partner for Cook and perhaps bring a rejuvenated Steven Finn back into the fold, then the dawn of another golden era of English cricket may well come sooner rather than later.
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