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Reynolds: Wagging Tail and Superior Depth Mean England Have Their Foot on India's Throat Again

Charles Reynolds | Updated: September 9, 2018, 9:54 AM IST
Reynolds: Wagging Tail and Superior Depth Mean England Have Their Foot on India's Throat Again

England's Stuart Broad in action. (Reuters)

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This has been a series of great contests – think Virat Kohli trying to banish the ghost of series past against James Anderson or Ishant Sharma’s domination of Alastair Cook – up and down both sides there have been fascinating micro-battles that have helped make this such a gripping series.

There has however been one area where England have been far superior to India, and it lies at the heart of how they have seen off the significant challenge that the tourists have set them over the course of these five Tests.

The area in question is England’s tail, and the ridiculous batting depth that this allrounder-heavy side possesses, because even while their top order remains a seemingly perpetual and unfixable shambles, time and time again this summer a late lower order rally has saved them.

This was very much the order of day two at The Oval, as once again India were unable to snuff out the last pieces of English resistance, allowing Jos Buttler to celebrate his birthday in style by turning 198/7 at the start of play into a previously unthinkable 332 all out.

It is not a tactic you would either advise or find in any coaching manuals and you wonder how long it can be maintained but ultimately it has been England’s final few wickets that have proved the difference between these two sides – turning the tide decisively at Edgbaston and the Ageas Bowl and perhaps here too.

CricViz calculate that England’s last four have batted for just over 22 hours this series, just under twice as long as the 12 hours 41 minutes managed by India’s – while in terms of balls, they have faced 850, more than double the 413 the tourists have.

England are nevertheless an extremely flawed side, and until they are fixed, those flaws will prevent them from being a team that operates at anywhere near its full potential.

However there is another key upside to the sheer volume of allrounders they possess, and that too has been at the heart of their ability to edge the key moments and ultimately win the series.

Allrounders, by their very nature, have more than one string to their bow, and while the strength in batting depth that England’s posse have provided has been crucial, the variety of bowling options that they have provided has been a key difference in the sides as well.

India’s bowlers have been magnificent at points during the series and deserve more than the probable final series scoreline, but as day two of this Test showed, they have been at a massive disadvantage against the range of options England possess.

Buttler, Adil Rashid and then Stuart Broad’s patient delaying and accumulating tactics stretched and showed up the limitations of India’s attack in the morning session, while later in the day, it was the depth of England’s that allowed them to really turn the screw.

Anderson and Broad have as you might have predicted been England’s leading two wicket takers in this series, but it is the breakthroughs provided by their supporting cast that have helped turn key moments.

Today no greater example of that was Ben Stokes’ removal of Kohli, the vital wicket as far as both sides were concerned, and a moment that ensured that while India’s captain might have seen off another Anderson assault, his fight to keep his side in this Test was far from over.

Whether it has been Moeen Ali in Southampton or Chris Woakes at Lord’s, England have fed off key cameos from their entire ensemble cast.

India by contrast, have been too reliant, batting especially, on individuals – with, as today, the slight feeling of Kohli or bust.

Like the many-headed hydra England have proved near impossible to kill off at crucial moments and despite the huge flaws elsewhere in their team it has won them the series.
First Published: September 9, 2018, 8:05 AM IST
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RankTeamPointsRating
1 India 4016 115
2 South Africa 3712 106
3 Australia 3499 106
4 England 4722 105
5 New Zealand 2354 102
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