Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Welcome back KP

Just when you needed him most........
MS Dhoni was quick to call Fantasy Bob after England's victory in the first Test.

'Listen FB,' he said, 'the boys are among your worldwide readership of 3 but they're all pretty disappointed in you.  We read your preview - what a load of rubbish.  You said Broad was useless and shouldn't play.  You said Pietersen wasn't worth the effort.  You said it would be a draw.  You said a lot of other crap that I can't remember.  But the boys believed you and look what happened.' 

The battery on FB's phone gave out at that point.  Just as he was asking himself what happened.............

India seemed underprepared and under motivated.  They lacked urgency.  Their fielding was of a standard pretty similar to that in the FB's All Star Carlton 4th XI, which is to say not quite up to Test Match standard.    Duncan Fletcher has already called in Trevor Penney to assist him make the necessary improvements to this part of their game.  This looks a good move.  India were hugely handicapped by the injury to Zaheer Khan just at the time when he was most needed - England were a bit on the back foot when he hobbled off.  He had the ball talking in perfect conditions.  FB has often expressed concern over 4 man bowling attacks and the implications of an injury.  But here there is doubt as to whether Khan was fully fit going into the match. Crazy.

His absence reduced the threat and Pietersen in particular was able to capitalise with a splendid innings.  He said he was taking LBW out of the equation by stepping a foot or so outside off stump and a yard down the wicket.  Pretty near back to his original technique after periods of doubt.  FB wishes he was brave enough to try this himself but he would probably fall over in the attempt.  But England need KP at his best like this - as do all cricket watchers.  In this mood he is as good as it gets.  It is worth noting how his innings showed great control, discipline and acceleration - 50 off 134 balls, 100 off 216, 150 off 301 and 200 off 326.  Whoosh!

Length matters
Then England bowled well as a unit and, above all, the penny dropped for Broad.  None of that short rubbish - he pitched up and looked a different prospect from the earlier part of the summer.  He was unlucky not get 5 wickets in the India's first innings.

India's batting lacked resilience in depth.  Only Dravid turned up as he deservedly got his name on the honours board.  But there was no fairy tale for Sachin, just a viral infection.

Khan's absence was evident in the second innings too.  Ishant fired India into a fine position at 62 for 5 but lacked support to press the advantage home and Matt Prior and Broad took the game away.  What is it with Prior - 3 centuries at Lords?  He'll need his own honours board shortly.

A real spearhead
Even then on the 4th evening, while things looked favourable for England it was possible that India could survive with an outside chance of a victory.  They needed their big guns to fire.  That was why the early dismissal of Dravid was critical - out to a very uncharacteristically loose shot.  As was Laxman.  Fletcher likely to be writing furious notes to himself about mental focus.   Sachin looked a shadow of himself - let's hope that the short interval to the next Test is enough for him to get shot of the virus which affected him here.  England's bowling effort was excellent in the second innings and Anderson showed himself truly to be the spearhead to give a bit more work to the honours board painter who will putting in for overtime.

Despite MS Dhoni's censure there were some things that FB got right.  The match was played at Lords.  But the 4 man attack is a risk, India were underprepared and a performance from Pietersen makes all the difference for England.  So FB does not feel wholly disgraced.

So on to Nottingham without drawing breath.  Three days is not a long enough space between Test matches. Momentum is firmly with England, but catching practice will be on the cards for the next few days.  A large number of catches went down - England were lucky that this time they weren't made to pay for these lapses.  They may not be so lucky again.

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