CRICKET fans who got up early enough to catch England’s fantastic second Test demolition of India over the last few days got a treat, and the good news is that the best may be yet to come.
So emphatic was the victory in Mumbai that all momentum has swung behind England, and there is no question that they are now in with a great chance of winning their first series on Indian soil since 1985.
Taking a series in India – against a team boasting some of the most famous names in cricket history, such as Sachin Tendulkar – would be one of the side’s best results in living memory and rank right alongside claiming the Ashes in Australia.
That the tourists find themselves in this position is fundamentally down to performances of the highest class from four men: Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen, Graeme Swann and of course Monty Panesar.
We hoped Cook would rise to the challenge of being captain, and centuries in both Tests, taking his tally to 22 tons, is phenomenal batting. Anyone still questioning his credentials should be sectioned. Cook was also a major factor in bringing Pietersen back from the wilderness, and KP repaid the favour in Mumbai with a ton as brilliant as any he’s produced for England.
But as great as those two were, the spinners were awesome. Any two of five or six batsmen could have got the runs England needed, but both Swann and Panesar had to perform in a match Cook simply had to win.
Panesar in particular was outstanding. You always felt he might freeze when it fell to the spinners to win a match but he blitzed decorated India batsmen who grew up on those pitches and are experts at playing turn.
I’m chuffed for Monty, who has hugely strengthened his claims for a Test place in any conditions. Clearly India is tailor-made for him, but he’d more than rival Tim Bresnan on a flat pitch at the Oval.
The pace he can get while still achieving spin was the difference between the two sides and bodes very well for the rest of the series. India went into the first and second Tests with their confidence sky-high. It’s not any more.
Andy Lloyd is a former England Tests cricketer. He has also been captain and chairman of Warwickshire.