Temporary relief or signs of redemption? England’s win at Leeds

To coin a phrase, a week is a long time in cricket. Just tell that to Joe Root. As he did the obligatory post-match media duties on the Headingley outfield on Saturday, with his bowlers having just reduced India from 215-2 to 278 all out, Root probably wondered if events at Lords had taken place in an alternate universe.

In that alternate universe, Mohammad Shami played the square cut like Kapil Dev and Ollie Robinson was physically unable to bowl an off stump line. In that alternate universe, England also lost their collective nerve and India emotionally rose to a pressurised occasion.

Refreshingly, however, on this occasion England’s reality was sweet. Unlike at Lords, England were clinical and ruthless at nearly every opportunity.  They started by rolling a suddenly ill-disciplined India batting order and pressed this early advantage home, with a captain in the form of his batting life.

After the Ben Stokes heroics against Australia 2019 on the same ground, nobody needs reminding of how test match comebacks can be mounted. As India came back for another go with the bat on Saturday morning, it did not quite resemble Root and Joe Denly’s Saturday evening defiance two years ago, but it did evidence some stoic resistance.

The situation was different here. A monumental first innings lead meant that the only real question on everyone’s mind was whether the hosts would need to bat again to achieve victory. Yet, England were offered a chance to right their wrongs and bowl with their heads, not hearts.

The innings victory – achieved by Saturday lunchtime – could not have exorcised the St. John’s Wood demons more emphatically. Clear thinking prevailed where hot heads had burned through on that Lords Monday morning. Fields were set and bowlers stuck to their plans.

Robinson was the focal point of England’s redemption with the ball and achieved some individual accolade in the process, after what has been far from a straightforward start to his test career. The social media revelations that marred his promising debut in June are now seemingly in the rear view mirror. The young Sussex seamer looks like he is here to stay at this level and a combination of nagging off stump lines and booming inswingers proved too good for the messrs. Pujara and Kholi. Robinson is already reaping the rewards of test match cricket, revealing afterwards that he had recently learned the latter delivery from Jimmy Anderson.

Once again, Root stood above everyone on either side with the bat, this time in a winning cause. He finally found support from his top order colleagues. Hameed and Burns were steady, if not imperious, and Malan’s assured 80 is remarkable, considering he has hopped off the conveyor belt of white ball cricket.

Against all the odds, England’s test summer can be saved. The ECB may yet be able to claim to have its cake and eat it too, with the red ball side achieving success alongside the behemoth of The Hundred. Amidst the one-day myriad has emerged another quality (and fit) test match fast bowler to take up arms with Anderson and Broad. Runs have also started to flow from top order batsmen.

After this series, the next scheduled test match for this side will be the first Ashes test in Brisbane on 8th December 2021. A lot is yet to be decided with that tour in the coming months, but results the Oval and Old Trafford seem to be pivotal to what this England side will look like in Australia and beyond.

Mark Cohen


  • Two high quality seamers not previously widely recognized emerged from Headingley with their reputations burnished – Craig Overton took three wickets in each innings, a match aggregate only one shy of Robinsons. Also, although Root played another brilliant innings this time England’s batting wasn’t 100% about him – Burns, Hameed and Malan all scored serious runs as well. Burns and Hameed have proven that they can combine effectively at the op of the order, and with the addition of Tom Abell who looks every inch a test match number three in waiting England may have a solid top three going forward.

    • Thomas

      I would love to see Abell given a chance, but can also see him becoming another ‘nearly man’. Unless Malan is injured, he is surely going to play in the next two Tests and, given his history there, unless he seriously underperforms you would think he would go to Australia. I was impressed by his disappointment at getting out for 70 (compared to Bairstow’s satisfaction with his scores at Lord’s).
      As ever this thoroughly enjoyable win leaves a lot of unanswered questions around the balance of the side. Buttler’s absence solves one at least for the next Test, but not for Australia.
      We almost have an embarrassment of seam bowling riches, albeit subject to age and injury caveats, but have learned nothing this summer about who will bowl spin in Australia.
      It’s amazing how quickly things change. This time last year I remember agreeing with Vaughan’s comments that we had a top 6 that could form the basis of our side for several years. Of those, only 2 played at Headingley, and there are doubts about whether, for differing reasons, the other 4 will go to Australia.

  • Watching this India side lose their last Test series in NZ and SA was a good antidote to the propaganda that they are a good team outside Asia.

    Anyway with all those runs Harrison scored and wickets Patel took to justify their bonus by saving English cricket, the opposition clearly didn’t stand a chance.

    • Our last overseas test series prior to arriving in England was in Australia, and we won that, so not sure why you sound so bitter.

  • Only time will tell whether this game will have an ongoing effect as confidence is a fragile thing in sport. We should certainly have more self belief and the Indians more self doubt. Mindset will be crucial for the next test, on a totally different surface at the Oval than Headingly’s slow seamer. Surely India will play Ashwin this time but the extra bounce the bowlers will get should work to our advantage, with our tall seamers hitting the deck. Surely we can’t continue with the totally ineffectual Curran, especially if Wood or Broad is fit. Buttler should also be dropped, hopefully permanently. There can’t be a player in the modern game given so many chances after failing so many times, maybe with the exception of the aforementioned Curran. If necessary Bairstow can keep and an extra batsman can be brought in to help balance our Stokeless side. Robinson and Overton are not rabbits so the tail has more potential to wag a bit if necessary.
    Whatever happens the next 2 tests, weather permitting, should be exciting and produce results. It’s great to have such an unpredictable encounter with both teams showing a capacity to dominate and self destruct.

  • The batting was pretty good in this game but it was made easier by the absence of scoreboard pressure, which is obviously a big factor in test cricket. When you roll out the opposition for 70 odd it makes life much, much, easier. India were always on the back foot from that moment. And it didn’t matter that Malan was coming in at 3, which he’s not familiar with, because the ball was soft by the time he arrived at the crease. Root, who is super human right now, then pressed home the advantage and made life even more comfortable for those either batting with him or following. Basically, the performance of the batsmen was heartening, but the bowlers should get some credit for their better showing too.

  • 62/5 at the Oval. Signs of redemption. Not a chance. One game doesn’t make a good side. The batting bar Root is sub standard.


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