Buoyant England on the up after long-awaited win
After 354 days and ten attempts, England have finally won a Test match. The relief was evident on the faces of the players at the Rose Bowl, and they will hope to bring their almost perfect performance to Old Trafford, as the fourth of the five-match series gets underway on August 7th. The scores are now tied at 1-1.
Much-criticised captain Alastair Cook has finally found some form and silenced (some) critics. He got some luck when Ravi Jadeja dropped a regulation chance at second slip when on 16, but then made India pay with scores over 50 (95 and 70 not out) in both innings.
Zimbabwean-born Gary Ballance will be forgiven for thinking Test cricket is easy as he continues to score hundreds, and is 4/1 to top score for the hosts in the first innings. Ian Bell, meanwhile, scored a majestic 167 and part-time spinner Moeen Ali claimed 6-67, meaning confidence has returned to the England camp and they are now favourites at evens to win the series.
James Anderson has returned to his best. The ugliness with Jadeja has (finally) been sorted by the ICC, so the Lancastrian can concentrate on his bowling at his home ground of Old Trafford, which will give him an even bigger boost. Anderson was bowling with pace, control and swung the ball both ways at the Rose Bowl that indicates he’s put the disastrous Ashes tour behind him.
The 32-year-old has claimed 28 wickets in the five Test matches he’s played so far this summer and is now only 12 wickets behind the great Sir Ian Botham in becoming England’s all time leading Test wicket taker. He will definitely be looking to claim that honour in front of his own fans, and it’s not surprising that Coral have him 2/1 favourite to emerge as his country’s top bowler in the first innings.
There is also good news for Steven Finn, who has been given a recall to the squad for the fourth Test due an injury to Liam Plunkett. The tall seamer had lost all confidence in his bowling, due in part to his persistent problem of hitting the stumps at the non striker’s end leading to a rule change for an automatic no ball being called.
Finn went back to Middlesex in the winter and worked with his long term mentor, former England bowler and current England selector Angus Fraser, in correcting his fault and finding the form that had disappeared. He has now gone back to a longer run up and is generating the serious pace and bounce that earned him his Test debut in 2010.
Fast bowler Finn is Middlesex’s leading wicket taker and fourth overall in the County Championship this season having taken 44 in 10 matches, and was a rare shining light in his county’s poor T20 Blast campaign, leading to a new three-year contract being awarded to him. Should he be selected for the upcoming Test, the hard Old Trafford wicket should help him greatly in his effort of terrifying Indian batsmen.