Cricket: Talisman Cook spurs England to famous win
The plea was in danger of falling on deaf ears. They listened but they did not necessarily hear. When England were crushed in the opening match of the Test series against India, their coach Andy Flower was disappointed but rational.
In a considered discourse, he asked three times that judgment should be delivered not then, not in the immediate wake of the nine-wicket drubbing, but at the end of the series.
England were fragile against spin yet again in that first Test in Ahmedabad. Worse still, their seamers looked off the pace as well. Flower genuinely thought matters could improve, but he was probably working as hard at convincing himself as well as others.
Judgment Day finally arrived in Nagpur, three matches later. Long before the close of a dull but vastly significant draw, England had turned the series round. They won it 2-1, defeating their opponents by 10 wickets in Mumbai and seven wickets in Kolkata.
The verdict is that England confounded observers outside the small world of the dressing-room; they probably surprised themselves.
Yet they did it and England won a series in India for the first time since 1984-85 when David Gower's side also had to come from one behind. Flower should be accorded his due because he admitted his mistakes and held his nerve.
But this series belonged to Alastair Cook, England's new captain. After the shambolic first innings in Ahmedabad he seized control of affairs. He recognised that the way to win was to grind India down. He ground and he kept grinding. His sequence of 176, 122 and 190 was interrupted only by his 18 not out to win in Mumbai.
England were not quite there when they turned up yesterday morning. Although this has been far from a vintage Indian side, they were still prepared to fight to hang on to the vestiges of their home record. Work was still to be done.
Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell duly performed it. Having come together at 94-3 when it still had potential to become tricky, they took their partnership to 208, England's second highest for the fourth wicket in India.
They played normally in the first hour, which was exactly what the position demanded – nothing reckless, nothing overly defensive. Trott was out for 143 when he glanced a shot to leg slip, Bell might have been caught at slip when he was 75, attempting a cut.
Bell was there at end, on 116 not out, playing the last ball defensively, when England declared their second innings 356 runs ahead. Joe Root, the debutant, was there with him, having batted in a composed way for the second time in the match.
Considering the rarity of this win, the brilliant manner in which it was achieved and the fact that it came at the end of a troubled year, it seems almost churlish to deride the last match and the pitch it was played on. But a series standing at 2-1 to the tourists, who had come from behind, deserved a better finale.
The pitch was hard, slow, encouraged no one and kept getting better instead of worse. It was too easy to stay in on and too difficult to get people out on. In five days, 23 wickets fell, some of those gifted.
It was perfectly correct, therefore, that the Man of the Match award went to Jimmy Anderson, the leader of England's attack, who had a wonderful series when he found his range after the first Test. His burst on the second afternoon when he dismissed three of India's top four with swing bowling of intelligent precision was effectively a series clincher.
Cook was man of the series for scoring 562 runs. India had problems in batting, bowling and fielding but England forced the mistakes. (© Independent News Service)