Sting from the English tail is hurting India big time

The contributions of lower-order England batsmen has been the major difference between the two teams in the series so far © Getty Images

 

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

 

The performances of the English lower order have been a huge frustration for India in their ongoing series. In innings after innings the likes of Matt Prior and Stuart Broad have defiantly denied India a quick end to the innings.

 

The current England team bats deep; its almost tailless. Broad and Graeme Swann can not only bat competently but score quickly as well. Broad has a Test highest of 169 while Swann’s highest is 85. With Tim Bresnan replacing Chris Tremlett, the England tail just got stronger. James Anderson is by no means a pushover. He can stick it out in the middle and can provide valuable support if there is a batsman at the other end who is fluently scoring runs. It is because of this ability that he has been sent as a night-watchman on a few occasions. The fact that he went 54 innings in Test cricket without a duck shows that he can be a tough customer at the crease.

 

Ironically it is India’s current coach, Duncan Fletcher, who had a role to play in getting English tailenders to take their batting a little more seriously. Quite a few commentators have mentioned the fact that when Fletcher was England coach, he stressed on the need for No 8, No 9, No 10 and No 11 to make decent contributions with the bat. This came at a time when England had notorious tailenders like Phil Tufnell and Alan Mullally.

 

Broad and Bresnan are genuine all-rounders who can make significant contributions with both bat and ball. The way Broad has batted in this series shows that he has matured as a player. At Lord’s he was involved in a match-changing partnership with Prior and in the first innings at Trent Bridge he played a fantastic knock to make sure England crossed the 200 mark. In hindsight, one can adjudge the value of that innings by just looking at the way India collapsed in their first innings and also the current state of the game.

 

There is a sense of calmness about Bresnan. When England and India faced each other during the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011, it was Bresnan who scored crucial runs with Swann to bring England closer to the target. The last time India were in England, Bresnan scored a brave century during one of the tour games. India had the English lion in deep trouble at 185 for six when Bresnan walked in. From there he carried his team to 413 as he stroked 126 runs in the company of Broad.

 

If either of Broad or Bresnan continue to perform with the bat as they are doing now, they may be able to stake a claim for the No 6 spot in the England batting line-up. Consequently, Eoin Morgan would have to be very consistent as his place may be in danger if England decides to play five bowlers. Once Tremlett comes back, Bresnan would sit out, but he has shown that he is a long-term prospect for England and that he can contribute with good performances in all departments.

 

Alongside Broad and Bresnan, England also has Swann. The off-spinner can be handy with the bat for his team and irritate the opposition. He has the ability to stay in the middle and score quickly. In the first innings at Trent Bridge, he helped Broad take England to a respectable total after they were in tatters at one stage. When England were in South Africa in 2009-10, he scored a vital 85 coming at No 9. In the crucial fifth Test of the 2009 Ashes, he scored a crucial 63 in the second innings to help England build a huge target.

 

Broad, Bresnan and Swann average 27.88, 32.80 and 24.15 (excluding the Nottingham Test) respectively in Test cricket. As one of the commentators said, if they score to their average then it makes a real difference to the ultimate total. The best part about Broad, Bresnan and Swann is that they aren’t afraid to express themselves; they are unafraid in going for their shots.

 

Clearly, India have a problem countering this strong England batting line-up – especially with an attack minus Zaheer Khan.

 

(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.”)