Tim Bresnan replaced the injured Chris Tremlett at Trent Bridge and almost scored a hundred batting at No 8 and took a five-for in India's disastrous second innings © Getty Images
Tim Bresnan replaced the injured Chris Tremlett at Trent Bridge and almost scored a hundred batting at No 8 and took a five-for in India’s disastrous second innings © Getty Images


By Nishad Pai Vaidya


If there is any team that signifies team work in Test cricket at the moment, it is England without any doubt. And by team one should also include the bench strength which has displayed immense character whenever an opportunity has come their way. By beating India in the second Test at Trent Bridge and taking a 2-0 series lead, they have sent out a message that they will play ruthless Test cricket and would grab any opportunity that comes their way to take control of the game. Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower have built a very strong unit since they took over the mantle and look set for a good run in the future.


When you look at the English performance in Test cricket over the last year, you would see that there have been good contributions from almost everybody in the playing eleven. Whenever any player has been out due to any injury, his replacement has done really well and hasn’t let the Team management down. In my opinion, this has been their biggest strength as their bench players have delivered whenever called up and have filled up the void left by the injured player. This will help them in the future as they are building up a strong back-up that will help them maintain their consistency in Test cricket.


When talking of England’s back-up players, we must start by considering their performances in the 2010-11 Ashes series held Down Under. England’s pace attack for the first two Tests comprised Stuart Broad, James Anderson and Steven Finn. Broad injured himself after the second Test at Adelaide and was replaced by Chris Tremlett. The 6 foot 7 inch tall bowler wasn’t a first choice then but he came into the line-up and made an immediate impression at Perth by picking up eight wickets in the match. In the fourth Test at Melbourne he looked absolutely invincible as he helped bowl out Australia for 98 on Boxing Day. Since then he hasn’t looked back as he an automatic selection into the playing eleven.


Tremlett wasn’t the only bench player to come up and rise to the occasion during the Ashes. Tim Bresnan was called into the England eleven for the Boxing Day Test Match at Melbourne. He was Tremlett’s and Anderson’s partner-in-crime when they bundled out Australia for 98 on the first day. He picked two wickets as Anderson and Tremlett picked up four a piece. He didn’t stop there as he picked up four in the second innings to deny Australia any hopes of coming back in the match. In the fifth Test at Sydney he added five more scalps to his tally. At Trent Bridge, Bresnan marked a fantastic return to the eleven by bowling well and also by contributing a lot more with the bat. This return was only possible due to Tremlett’s injury. This has created a selection dilemma for Andrew Strauss as the two teams head to Edgbaston.


To back these fast bowlers, they have the likes of Steve Finn and Jade Dernbach waiting in the wings. Finn has shown fantastic promise at a very young age and with his tall frame he can be intimidating on his day. Dernbach has been impressive in the limited-overs games with his variations and England would like to keep him in their scheme of things as one never knows when he would be needed. Probably some day when one of the regular fast bowlers is injured, any of these two may step up the way Tremlett and Bresnan did during the Ashes.


It isn’t just the bench strength that has delivered but even when the first choice players have been put to test, they have responded magnificently. Ian Bell, a regular in the eleven was also put to test in the second innings at Trent Bridge. Jonathan Trott is England’s regular number three but when he got injured while fielding, Bell was promoted to that vital spot. His response was a classy and aggressive century to set the tone for an England victory. Although Bell has batted at number three in the past, it is never easy when you are told to go up the order when you have gone into the match with a mind-set of playing in the middle order. Bell deserves to be credited for the way he made the adjustment and responded to his team’s call.


The reason why England are doing well is that their players are rising to the occasion. The story isn’t just about their first choice playing eleven but also their bench strength, who have responded whenever they got the call. Things are really looking good from the England point of view. The only problems before them are Jonathan Trott’s injury scare and a fast bowling selection dilemma. But he way England’s bench is responding, if Trott misses out on the next Test, his replacement may grab the opportunity.


English cricket, quite clearly, is on the ascendency.


(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 20-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.”)