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The Indian tourists made the most of the day by carrying on their rollercoaster tour at Alton Towers. Sehwag got his third golden duck of the test, though fortunately this time it got him a giant Scooby-Doo instead of an early shower. They took a lot away from the day though, as Tendulkar faced another Nemesis, Dhoni’s wish to disappear into Oblivion was granted and VVS Laxman prepared for facing Broad’s bouncers by going through the House of Horrors over and over again.

The Test Match special crew did join India at Alton Towers for a short while, though they were kicked off Air after Geoffrey Boycott sat on it muttering something about “uncovered tracks”.

For the England team, Strauss and Cook both made scores of over a hundred as Ian Bell and Graeme Swann beat them at golf. Anderson once again took a fantastic catch in the gulley behind his house, who knew a small stream like that would have such large fish in it! Kevin Pietersen was the star performer though, as his rendition of Shania Twain’s “Man, I feel like a woman!” at the karaoke bar having downed a few cobras will live long in the memory.

On the day that England became number one, their captain answers the questions of simply why England are so good: “We should enjoy that we’ve achieved one of our goals,” the England captain told the BBC’s Test Match Special.

“Then we will look to improve as we always do.”

‘Nuff said.

As for the day’s play, aside from some resistance from Dhoni and Kumar, who with his impressive workrate with ball in hand and entertaining (if a little in vain) batting pyrotechnics has to be India’s man of the series, the win seemed very easy for England, yet this ease of victory was only brought about by the professionalism of the England side, who still chased every single ball to the boundary and dived for every catch, with Stuart Broad taking an impressive athletic attempt at mid off and even Tim Bresnan chasing an edge all the way to the boundary from fourth slip and overhauling it, something that really wasn’t seen from the Indian side.

the day was not without it’s odd moments, however. Dravid was given out after missing the ball but middling his shoelace with enough force that the sound convinced him, England and umpire Taufel that he edged it. Raina then tried to review an LBW decision, with umpire Davis shaking his head and holding his finger steady and high. The fancy dress theme in the crowd gave a fantastic atmosphere all day, with one lucky punter getting more than he bargained for when a huge Kumar six smashed his pint pot as he tried to catch the ball in it!

The fantastic atmosphere reached a crescendo as England took the final few wickets, but the England team know their job is not yet complete. There is still the matter of the final test to complete. We can be sure that England will approach it with all the preparation and professionalism that they have showed so far in reaching that no.1 spot. However, first they have small matter of a huge party!

On a day in which very little seemed to happen, a lot seemd to happen.

I think we can now pretty much agree that England are no. 1 in the world, and what a way to go there. Cook batted sublimely throughout the day, if slowly. But who cares about sped when you’ve got 5 days to make your approximately one bazillion runs in. Cook’s massive double ton has been one of the great feats of batting. He hasn’t got them fast, he hasn’t neded to. There weren’t flurries of boundaries, just 3 today until pretty much right up to tea. However, there WAS concentration and dedication whilst facing every ball, unlike some of the fielding side, apart from right at the end, where the pressure to increase the run rate told on him as he chased one to his demise.

Of the rest of the side who batted today, Morgan looked fantastic in reaching his hundred, Bopara and Prior were unlucky to get out cheaply, though after a marathon sitting padded up you can hardly blame them, and Bresnan proved his usual blustery self firing off a nifty fifty. Unfortunately(ish), England find themselves in the position where 5 of their 4 man bowling attack have nailed on places in the side! What the management are going to do when Tremlett is fit again I don’t know! Even then, there are players like Steven Finn who’ve done absolutely nothing wrong waiting in the wings to get a game again. It’s a luxurious situation which teams don’t often find themselves in. Long may these problems continue!!!

Explosive!
Devastating.
Intense.
These are all words that do NOT describe the Indian attack.
Toothless, lacklustre and wantaway sadly do.
Day two was devastating for India. Cook is well on his was to making a “daddy” hundred, “grandad” hundred and keep on going back through the generations. It’s not that India haven’t had a chance to take wickets, it’s the all round poorness of their out-fielding that also bothers me. a total of zero catches from 3 easy attempts leave a lot to be desired from any fielding side, especially when of those chances goes to as experienced a slip catcher as Dravid as the one just before the close of play did. Geoffrey Boycott’s entire extended family would have caught that in their sleep.
However, England’s batting looks ruthless. Cook does, once again, find himself heavily in the runs, Strauss picked up a good score, Pietersen looked in fantastic form until coming unstuck by the second new ball. And now Morgan really needs to go on and make a lot of runs today, which I think he will. The Indians aren’t really making the ball talk much now, it’s starting to get soft and I would imagine that the spinners are going to be employed for much of the day.
In all of this gluttony of runs, you can’t help but feel a little bit sorry for Ravi Bopara. The poor chap has been trying his hardest to get a game, he finally does and EVERYONE above him in the order is filling their boots and he’s not got a turn yet. If Morgan and Cook bat well on into today, could we see a declaration from Strauss before he even gets to bat? Will England even need to bat a second time? Almost definitely not down to 6. The poor chap could see himself called up to fill a slot for one test, not bat, not bowl, and see himself dropped again!
As for day 3, well… is Lara’s 401* a possibility?

Starting a blog mid-series may seem a little unorthodox, but there is nothing unorthodox about England’s play at the moment. They have India worked out completely. From having the press build them up as a large bogeyman they have failed completely to deliver on the promises of world beaters the press built them up with, and have instead drawn comparisons to Bangladesh. Unfairly, if I might say so.
Bangladesh, at least, apply themselves to the task in hand. They might not have the skill or panache of other teams but they will work hard, earn every run and wicket, chase every ball to the ropes. India, on the other hand, looked beaten. On day one of a test match.
Sehwag’s golden quacker was a big blow, but then you’ve still got Dravid there. The Wall. Gambhir. The Little Master himself. Laxman. All these are names that would have bowling attacks quaking in their boots in anticipation of bowling at them but the only thing that seems to be happening to English boots is a slight stretching as the bowlers look to fill them as they have done again and again during the series.
The one positive India can take from today is Dhoni’s return to form with the bat, his entertaining stand with Kumar at least lending an air of respectability to the Indian score. Sadly for him, this hard work was pretty much undone by his opposite number’s best innings of the series so far, with Strauss and Cook taking apart the Indian bowlers with about as much difficulty as a one-piece jigsaw puzzle. Day two can only get worse for India.

When Phil Tufnell was announced as a new commentator on TMS back in 2008, I let loose a groan. “Great,” I thought. “Another recently retired, former England pro trying to make a quick extra few quid clogging up the airwaves with his inane drivel. You only have to look at him to know he’s not all that in the brain department; he’ll contribute nothing insightful and will just sound like That Guy down the local.”

How wrong was I!?

Tuffers has quickly become one of my personal favourite commentators on TMS for many reasons. He is quick-witted, sharp, knowledgeable and good humoured. He maintains a degree of dignity whilst managing to remember that what he is commentating on is one of the most ridiculous sports ever (which is why it is so loved) and therefore needs to have an element of tongue-in-cheek and light-heartedness about it.

However, where Tuffers has really come into his own is his appreciation for the finer subtleties of the game. Where originally I had my doubts over his intelligence, having seen him portrayed as a lazy chap who just occasionally wandered up to the wicket to send down a few overs, it quickly became apparent that behind that exterior is a fantastic cricket brain. Being a spinner has taught him to appreciate the various roles in the team, he knows how batsmen think- he has had to out-think them; he knows how fast-bowlers think, he has to work with them; he knows how ‘keepers think, to be a successful spinner you have to have a great relationship with your ‘keeper. And of course, he knows how tail-enders think. He never did “like it up ‘im”.

His effervescent personality has also added to his charm. He comes across as one of the lads without sounding disrespectful or clashing with the styles of his co-commentators. Indeed, some of his better pairings, in my opinion, have come with those who you would think less likely for him to gel with. Indeed, his gentle mickey-taking seems to rejuvenate some of the, erm, more experienced members of the team who appear to look forward to commentating alongside such a likable character.

Of course, recent events have shown that he can be on the receiving end of the mickey-taking equally as well. His recent honorary doctorate was the cause of much mirth amongst Aggers and co. and will no doubt continue to be, but I am sure that he will outlast that by a long way, and will continue to be a stalwart of TMS for many years to come.

When Eoin Morgan came into the England ODI setup England were a weak batting side. The top of the order was slow and obdurate and often left a lot of work for the lower order to do, putting pressure on them to score fast and score big. This often led to the inevitable collapse as run rates fell behind the target and players selected for the ability to hit out got to cheaply.  Luke Wright. Ravi Bopara. Jamie Dalrymple. To a lesser extent, Broad and Swann. Whilst the latter two are certainly in the current team or their bowling, and rightly so on merit, you couldn’t help but feel that the lower order was, in some way, being selected to bolster the batting lineup, and in doing so were weakening the bowling.

Fast forward a year or so and Morgan gets poached from Ireland. Finally, England have a solid no. 6 who can come in, assess a situation, bat according to it and not just get out for 8 off 5 having a swing at every ball. in him we found a match winner. A century maker. Someone who will Be There At The End. Much like when KP himself broke into the team But is he good enough for test match cricket.

In English conditions, I don’t think so.

In the IPL and during his one day career so far he has proven himself against spin bowling. On low, slow pitches he thrives, with his inventiveness and quick wrists allowing him to play incredible shots to score in areas other batsmen can only dream of. However, he has shown himself to be weaker against the swinging ball, especially, it appears, in England, where, as we all know, the ball swings the most. Against Australia last winter he plundered some useful runs, and his batting against Pakistan last summer was, admittedly , top class at times. But I think that this was aided by the rose-tinted glasses that his ODI potential has made us wear. I don’t think he is the real deal in test cricket and I don’t think he is currently meriting his place in the team.

At the moment, England have a finely balanced test side. The batting is deep. Stuart Broad, in at 9 in the 2nd test vs. India, has a batting average of around 25. Swann is also very capable with the bat, having 3 first class tons to his name. Compare this to a few years ago when England had a long tail of Flintoff (too high at 6), Jones, Giles, Hoggard, Harmison and Jones. Then throw Panesar into that mix too and you have a tail that could fold in an instant. Now, with Prior coming in at 7 and making big, useful, fast runs, and Bresnan at 8, do we need Eoin Morgan in the side.

When he first came in he was a replacement for Collingwood. Collingwood was a fantastic servant for English cricket throughout his career, often scoring runs when needed and even when his batting failed his fielding was top class and his bowling could be relied upon for 5 or 6 overs Tann innings to let the quicks have a breather before the new ball. When he left the team there was a void in the bowling department that England don’t have the tools at the moment to fill. It i not a big void, but a lurking one. What happens when a front line bowler gets injured?

The only occasional bowler England currently have is Trott. With the greatest of respect for him as a player, his bowling is a bit Phil Neville. He sends it down, there is very little threat, 3-4 runs/over, thank you very much. Collingwood at least had the know how to take wickets.

So having lambasted England for picking bits and pieces players for the ODI side, am I now going to suggest one for tests?

No.

Emphatically not.

England need reliability, consistency and high quality performers. Therefore solution would be to play 5 bowlers to ensure that at all times there is a strong and capable bowling unit on the field and to help alleviate some of the problems that come from playing too much cricket. Rather than waiting for bowlers to get injured, then replacing them, surely by spreading the load more evenly and reducing the overs bowled by each bowler we will see a higher quality, sustained bowling performance by the England team. But who do we leave out for this extra player?

As I suggested before, when Morgan broke into the team he was playing in a similar style to an early Kevin Pietersen. The team already has one Pietersen. I do not believe it needs a second player of his ilk. At the moment, 1 through 5 seem untouchable. Cook has hit a small blip of the back of a fantastic winter but is still playing well and will, one day, take over from Strauss as captain. Strauss is captain. A good one. He is solid with good plans and a great team to back him up. Trott is one of the best players in the world at the moment. KP has returned to form and Bell just looks in the form of his life. This leaves Morgan to make way from the team to allow the extra bowler.

Sadly, Trott has been ruled out of the third test, allowing Morgan to make his claim to finally nail down his slot. Trott’s replacement in the squad, Bopara, is enigmatic at best, and to my mind should not play. Therefore, to my mind, especially as India have a weakened bowling attack, England can afford the extra bowler and should line up as such on Wednesday:

Cook

Strauss

Bell

Pieteresen

Morgan

Prior

Bresnan

Broad

Swann

Anderson

Tremlett.