THE RANKINGS may not reflect it yet, but there’s no doubting this England side are the best Test team on the planet right now.
That India were steamrollered at Trent Bridge yesterday afternoon came as no surprise. The tourists had their opportunity when they won what looked like a vital toss and had England eight down early on.
But Stuart Broad’s heroics with the bat and then with ball turned the momentum in England’s favour and when Andrew Strauss’s side get the scent of blood these days, they’re as ruthless as any of the great Australian or West Indies sides of old.
In many ways this could prove a defining match in Broad’s career, with his status as a genuine Test all-rounder now solidified. A slight adjustment to his length has transformed the threat he carries as a bowler, and the confidence he’s garnered from the wickets he’s taken has allowed him to bat with greater freedom.
With Broad back to his best it will be interesting to see how brave England are with their selection ahead of the third Test. Andy Flower has been very reluctant to err from a four-man bowling attack up to now.
But Jonathan Trott’s injury, Tim Bresnan’s all-round display up at Nottingham and Chris Tremlett’s likely return to fitness presents England with the opportunity to field a five-man attack without harming the depth of their batting, too much.
For me, Tremlett has to play if fit and it’s impossible to drop the likeable Bresnan after he scored 90 runs and took five wickets.
Losing someone of Trott’s ability could never be considered anything but a blow, but on this occasion his unavailability could be viewed as a blessing in disguise.
As wonderful as England have been, it’s slightly disappointing that a series which promised so much has thus far been an extremely one-sided affair.
Coach Duncan Fletcher, who must be casting his mind back to 2006 when his undercooked England side were battered in Australia, and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni have a lot of soul searching to do but I wouldn’t write them out of this series just yet.
By the time the sides reconvene at Edgbaston, another ground at which the ball is likely to swing, India could well have three of their big-hitters back.
The return of Virender Sehwag, the world’s most destructive opening batsman, would give the tourists a major lift as would the solidity Gautam Gambhir usually provides, while Zaheer Khan doubles India’s chances of taking 20 wickets.
It would be remiss, of course, not to comment on the Ian Bell run out incident which dominated the third day’s play.
It was an unforgivable, schoolboy error from Bell and had it been the last day of an Ashes deciding Test there’s no way on earth he would have been given another life.
Thankfully, it didn’t have a major impact on the game – the stuffing had already been knocked out of India – and Dhoni’s decision meant the potential for some unsavoury scenes was immediately eradicated.