The end of Ashes series will be more of a relief for English supporters. England went to Australia on the back of three consecutive Ashes wins and with a 3-0 win just a few months ago. They were confident of repeating their performance of 2010-11 when they bearded the lions in their own den.
All over the world, it is becoming increasingly tougher to beat sides at home. England, having done it in Australia and following it with another impressive performance in India last year, were seen as the favourites to do it again. They certainly had quality players and almost the same combination. The hopes of English supporters were therefore justifiably high. Cricket, though, is a funny game and is so much mental that once the cracks start appearing, it takes a long time to be repaired.
Like India in Australia a couple of years earlier, England were very much in the series in the first Test, but once they lost their grip on the game, the Aussies relentlessly ground them down. Expectedly, questions have been asked of the leadership qualities of Alastair Cook and the coach Andy Flower. Ashley Giles will be England’s coach in the limited-overs series, and if England can beat the Aussies, there will be a demand for him to take over the coaching of the Test team too.
After all, despite all the success that Flower has had as coach over the last few years, he is not English and so dispensable. In the Emirates, two men on the wrong side of their 30s are showing that age is just a number. Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq scored tons and put Pakistan in a winning position in their adopted home ground, and with the new ‘ magician’ Saeed Ajmal around, they must have hoped to start the Test series on a winning note.
Shahid Afridi’s long standing record of fastest century in One-day cricket was eclipsed by Corey Anderson of New Zealand who got it in 36 balls. With Jesse Ryder also making his comeback to the New Zealand team with a 46-ball century, the Kiwis easily overwhelmed the West Indies which seems to be going from bad to worse.
INDIA ARE BACK from their tour of South Africa. They will be disappointed that a couple of bad sessions cost them the Test series too. Not taking the second new ball on the fourth morning was hard to understand, especially after night watchman Dale Steyn had survived the first half-an-hour or so. It made it easy for Jacques Kallis to get to his 45th century in Tests.
With three seamers in the team, a new ball was more likely to get results. By the time it was forced on them the batsmen were set and the bowlers tired, and the new ball was wasted. It does bring into question whether the skipper is getting the right tactical advice, for it just went downhill from there onwards, just like it did in Nagpur against England a year ago.
If India had returned unbeaten in the two Tests, it would have been huge. They dominated the first Test and with a good batting performance in the first innings of the second Test they had won a moral victory after being written off after the one-dayers.
India now go to New Zealand, and the Kiwis, after their performances against the West Indies, will be high on confidence. Like all teams they will be hard to beat at home, and the Indians will have to play as well as they did in the first Test against South Africa to ensure that it is not another disappointing overseas tour. PMG