THERE isn’t much that captain Alastair Cook has left to accomplish on this tour of India, but winning the toss is one of them. I’d love to see Cook call it right tomorrow in Nagpur and allow England to rack up a commanding first-innings score in the decisive final Test.
Batting to 300-3 on day one would be a massive psychological blow for the hosts, who are already reeling from back-to-back thumping defeats. As long as England’s bowlers continue in the same vein I’m certain they’ll be celebrating a first series win in India since 1985.
The short interval between the third and fourth Tests plays right into England’s hands. Momentum is firmly with them, having outplayed India in all departments. Coach Andy Flower will have them very well prepared and I expect them to keep their foot squarely on the gas.
With some teams you might worry about complacency, having won so convincingly in Mumbai and Kolkata, and they did wobble at the start of the last innings. But I’m not concerned at all. They only needed 41, and these are experienced players who know what’s at stake.
His 28 helped see England over the line in the third Test, but ideally I’d like to see Ian Bell improve his run tally in this match. But what I’m hoping for most is that they maintain the level of consistency achieved since Ahmedabad.
I have no time for those who claim a series win would be diminished by India’s poor performance. It’s easy to question the merit of it, but you can’t have Kapil Dev playing; Virender Sehwag, Mahendra Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan are all top cricketers.
Look through history: even the great Australia and West Indies teams didn’t always win out there because it’s such a tough place to play. If you asked former Aussie skipper Steve Waugh what his greatest achievements were he would name winning in India.
Don’t forget England were the ones facing the questions at the start of this series. They had just lost their No1 ranking to South Africa, and had been whitewashed by Pakistan earlier in the year.
In a way that series helped England. It forced them to admit and confront their problems playing spin. And while it’s too early to say they’ve been cured – Saeed Ajmal is far better than India’s spinners, while Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar would get in a side ahead of them – huge credit must go to Flower and batting coach Graham Gooch.
Andy Lloyd is a former England Test cricketer. He has also been captain and chairman of Warwickshire.