Alastair Cook might have been dropped long ago had he not been the skipper of the side © Getty Images
England succumbed to a 95-run defeat as Ishant Sharma’s record spell of seven for 74 guided India to their first overseas win in a Test match since 2011. England have now lost seven out of their last nine Test matches and the latest defeat certainly guarantees some changes in the side. Devarchit Varma takes a look.
So, England loses another Test. This is not news for the England fans. They have been losing more often than not in the last couple of months. Their side is in a rebuilding phase and not much can be expected from a mixed bunch of young as well as experienced players. The teams that are in such as phase are generally left out; they are not expected to win everything. But at the same time, they are not expected to lose everything either. This is where the problem lies for England.
A defeat to India may not matter much keeping the current state of England cricket in mind, but what would be more baffling for the fans and English cricket fraternity is the way they lost it. England prepared a green-top wicket to intimidate the young Indian batsmen who were thought to have flourished on pitches that had absolutely nothing for the bowlers. But much to their surprise, England fell into their own trap and lost yet another Test match.
The way England went about their job was questionable – especially their tactics on the final day with the bat. India did not have too many runs to protect after the stubborn stand between Moeen Ali and Joe Root, but they were ready to take risks. India targeted the struggling Matt Prior with a barrage of short balls and the batsman gave in. Much to the surprise of many in the England camp, the stroke on which Root got out wasn’t a responsible one either. England have a lot to consider and many shortcomings to address.
That Ian Bell has been finding new ways to get dismissed is another woe in the English camp. He is one of the pillars in the England batting line-up, and it is necessary for the team to have one of their main batsman try and spend time at the wicket. Bell has been a little careless of late, and that has shown in his game.
Alastair Cook may have raised his hand to lead England in their rebuilding phase but his poor form with the bat is not at all helping their cause. Had he not been captain, Cook might have been shown the exit door long ago. But the left-handed batsman showed some intent on the Day Four evening as he watched the ball all the way through, and those who know Cook would certainly say that the captain is trying hard to bounce back from the abysmal form.
Matt Prior was the likeliest player in the squad to be dumped ahead of the third Test at Southampton. He has been on a downward spiral since the Ashes, and he is nowhere close to the force that he was in 2011. Prior’s work behind the wickets has been shabby, and he has spilled many catches as well as given extra runs behind the wickets. Prior would certainly extremely lucky if he takes the field on July 27 in the third Test, but his form both with the bat and the gloves is nowhere close to what England need. However, he made the selectors’ jobs easier by announcing a break from the game just hours after the match.
Ben Stokes showed immense promise during the Ashes Down Under, but he is nowhere close to delivering on it. The bowlers have managed to sneak the ball between the bat and the pads, and his bowling isn’t encouraging enough for Cook to depend on him. Since that innings of 120 at Perth in December 2013, Stokes has scored 14, 19, 47, 32, and then three ducks in a row. England may as well look to rope in someone who can provide good support to their pacers, like Tim Bresnan did in 2011.
Apart from the changes that England can possibly make ahead of the third Test, they need to change the way they have been thinking. The implosion at Lord’s is not at all a good sign, especially for teams that are in a rebuilding phase.
Complete coverage of India’s tour to England here
(Devarchit Varma is a reporter with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)