After a nightmare year that included an Ashes whitewash and defeat to the Netherlands in the T20 World Cup, England may have looked upon India as perfect opposition.
With the pressure finally off Alastair Cook, England must now ensure that their 3-1 series victory was not simply an aberration.
World Cup year
Indeed, as they prepare for the ODIs against the Men in Blue, the real test may not come until next year, when they encounter the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, as well as a home Ashes series.
An encounter will be especially telling, an indication of just how far England have really come in the eighteen months since losing 5-0 Down Under.
India being fined for their slow over-rate may seem relatively unimportant in itself, but it is another reminder of the truly hapless nature of MS Dhoni’s team.
India give England advantage
Having succumbed to two innings defeats in as many games, there is ample evidence that the visitors’ batting collapses are not letting up anytime soon. England may have two of the world’s best bowlers in Stuart Broad and James Anderson, but their work was made easy by an extremely poor Indian batting order, six of whom scored a duck in the fourth Test at Emirates Old Trafford.
Unfortunately, England do not play another Test until April, when they go on tour of the West Indies. Cook looked far more comfortable in his role as captain after the disaster at Lord’s, consulting his bowlers more and more on field placings; however, he must now adapt once again to ODI cricket, requiring an entirely different mind set altogether.
Antigua will produce very different bowling conditions, and the Three Lions’ batsmen will be under particular scrutiny; India’s batting was poor, but their bowlers put Bell, Balance, Root, and co under relatively little pressure.
England off the hook
Duncan Fletcher’s side also let England off the hook countless times with poor fielding, so it will certainly make interesting viewing when Cook aims to reach his first Test century in what will be close to two years.
Having failed to impress in the final Test, Sam Robson may struggle to make next year’s squad. If India provided a golden opportunity for England’s strugglers, then the Middlesex starlet did not make the most of it.
Currently, the feeling pervading English cricket is one of overwhelming relief. In reality, though, little can be gleamed from the triumph over India. Rather, it is the defeated who have the most lessons to learn, while England’s chief concern must be carrying momentum forward into next year.