Monday 19 February 2018

Cricket: England level after Panesar puts India in a spin

Stephen Brenkley

As preparations unfolded for the second Test, England did not seem to have a prayer. When Alastair Cook, their shining new captain, lost the toss on the first morning, his fleeting look of torment suggested he was not about to bother putting his hands together in supplication.

By the time the match ended 85 minutes into its fourth day, the tourists had defeated India by 10 wickets. It was comfortably the equal of any of their previous 138 wins away from home.

The return of the prodigal son was commemorated a match late, being no less special for it, with a glorious innings of 186. Kevin Pietersen was made Man of the Match for that but he was by no means alone in the department where heroic deeds are stored.

Cook himself joined Pietersen in scoring a record-equalling 22nd Test century for England, and it was his fourth successive hundred in four matches as captain, an unprecedented feat. The bowling was done, by and large, by Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar, who took 19 wickets in the match between them.

Not for 54 years had a pair of English spinners been so dominant in a match, since Jim Laker and Tony Lock shared 19 wickets against New Zealand at Headingley. They had gone one better two years earlier when Laker alone took 19 against Australia at Old Trafford, with Lock getting the other.

The triumph of Swann and Panesar was also a triumph of hope over experience. Of the seven times before that they had been selected in the same Test XI, England had never won.

All Test wins on foreign soil are to be cherished. England's ratio is 30pc but in the past 25 years that has fallen below 25pc. In India they had won 11 times in 52 attempts.

But consider the circumstances in which they came into the 53rd. Not only had they lost the first Test match in Ahmedabad by a thumping nine wickets, they had also exhibited their old uncertainties against spin.

It was their seventh defeat in 12 matches this year. The effect of the Pietersen imbroglio which went to the very heart of the team in the late summer had to be considered.

Such fears for the tourists' immediate future reckoned without the idea that by the time they came to bat fourth the concerns had been rendered obsolete. England needed only 57 to win and new boy Nick Compton joyously creamed 30 of them from 28 balls.

After Panesar and Swann had run through the Indian second innings on Sunday, England needed three more India wickets yesterday, which they took in 67 balls, before swashbuckling their way to victory in 58 balls.

Elsewhere, Faf du Plessis carried his bat for more than seven hours, hitting a fine century on debut to carry South Africa to a morale-boosting draw in the second test against Australia, with AB De Villiers having earlier taken a remarkable 220 balls to reach 33.

Australia paceman Peter Siddle and spinner Nathan Lyon captured late wickets to leave South Africa wobbling at 240-8, however, Du Plessis and Morne Morkel survived the nerve-shredding final overs to leave the series tied at 0-0 with the third Test starting in Perth on Friday. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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