The Judge: Impressive England have the look of world leaders
PUBLISHED: 12:14 27 July 2011
It is not uncommon for a touring team to lose the first Test of a series in England, but there was something mightily impressive about the way India were swept away at Lord's.
They are still ranked the number one Test nation in the world and they didn’t get there by fluke, but after England’s 196-run victory, Andrew Strauss and his team are now well placed to take pole position from them.
Not a great deal went right for India. They lost their top bowler, Zaheer Khan, to injury on the first afternoon, Sachin Tendulkar was troubled by a virus, Gautam Gambhir was injured while fielding and MS Dhoni had a particularly poor match, both as captain and behind the stumps.
India, like England, went into the match with four frontline bowlers but they were well aware that Zaheer had played very little first-class cricket lately after missing the West Indies tour and perhaps they should have made a better assessment of his fitness before deciding to put England into bat when they won the toss.
As well as Praveen Kumar bowled in the first innings and Ishant Sharma in the second – when his Sunday morning spell gave his side a hint of a chance – I don’t think they could really cope without Zaheer.
Kevin Pietersen punished them with a marvellous double-century in the first innings, while Matt Prior and Stuart Broad took the batting honours on Sunday.
Though are they are the world’s top-ranked Test side, India do not have the strength in depth in the bowling attack that England possess.
If Zaheer is not fit for the Second Test, starting at Trent Bridge on Friday, it remains to be seen whether Sreesanth or Munaf Patel can fill the gap.
Even Dhoni had to take off his pads and bowl at Lord’s but he is at best a net bowler, not even in the Jonathan Trott league.
There seemed to be a surprising lack of discipline and desire in India’s performance and their fielding was very poor at times.
They have a very strong batting line-up but let’s not forget that England have a very strong bowling line-up and they won this contest hands down.
You have to give credit to England for bowling out a side on the fifth day at Lord’s. We now have guys who are consistently stepping up to the plate.
Broad put his lean spell behind him and bowled very well, largely because he bowled a fuller length than in recent matches. James Anderson now has his 11th five-wicket haul in Tests and Chris Tremlett supported them well.
Prior and Broad showed a lot of good sense when England were going through a bad session on Sunday morning. We’ve seen in the past how one poor session, or even one bad hour, can change a game but they put the match out of India’s reach with their unbroken seventh-wicket stand.
Prior batted beautifully for his unbeaten century. He now has a Test average of more than 45, the highest of any Test wicket-keeper apart from Andy Flower and Adam Gilchrist. It is good England now have a No 7 they can rely on, and he must now be one of the first names on the teamsheet.
• SWARDESTON ARE IN A POSITION TO CALL THE EAPL SHOTS
Winning becomes a habit and Swardeston’s very comfortable victory over Sudbury has put them in the box seat in the East Anglian Premier League as they seek to regain the title they won in 2007 and 2008.
When you are winning in different competitions as they are, it has a knock-on effect. It gives you momentum and it helps that they have that mentality where they know how to win tight games, too.
They are now in a position in the EAPL where they can dictate things to a certain extent and, though there are still eight matches to go, they will take some beating over the final third of the season.
It’s true that all-rounder Jaden Hatwell’s departure after this season will affect the balance of their side, as he is arguably the outstanding player in the entire league and it will be interesting to see how they replace two players in one next year, but for now I am sure they will want to give him a winning farewell before he returns to New Zealand.
While the three Norfolk sides immediately below Swardeston failed to win, reigning champions Cambridge Granta seem to have got their act together. After their 208-run victory over Norwich, who seem to be going from bad to worse, Granta may feel they can still close that gap of 65 points on the leaders, especially as there are quite a few Norfolk derbies to come and teams above them will be taking points off each other. But you would rather have the points in the bag and I suspect they might have left it too late.
The fewer games that remain, the greater becomes the pressure to win each one, and you never know how many you may lose to bad weather.
You can’t legislate for the odd wet weekend and you can’t assume you will keep winning and close the gap.
Mallards, who narrowly failed to beat Clacton, and Great Witchingham, who held on for a draw against Saffron Walden, were both involved in tight contests. But the Horsford hoodoo continued with their defeat at Halstead and, sad to say, their away performances simply haven’t been good enough to sustain their title challenge.
The Norfolk Alliance Premier Division title appears to be done and dusted and the engravers are getting ready to put Fakenham’s name on the trophy.
It is hard to see how a team that has won every single game – except the one they lost to the weather – can possibly lose a 55-point lead, bearing in mind they also have a game in hand on the four teams immediately below them.
At the bottom of the table, you can perm any two from three or four for the drop into Division One, and it promises to be a nervous few weeks for Stow, Cromer, Lowestoft and possibly Brooke.
In Division One, the weather dealt us yet another blow at Acle when our game against Swardeston A was ended prematurely by persistent rain. After losing our match against leaders Old Buckenham to rain the previous week, it was a big setback.
We were 140 for three, chasing a target of 201, but I have no complaints because we did the right thing by coming off. We could have played on, like other games may have done, but we would all have been completely soaked – it’s just ironic that I can’t seem to find another match on Saturday that failed to finish because of bad weather!
Nevertheless we will fight to the end and with five games and 125 points still to play for there is no reason to believe we can’t bridge our 13-point gap and catch the current leaders.