Well glaze my nipples in honey and call me Ritu. I saw England’s victory in Sri Lanka coming from a mile off but not in my wildest dreams, not even after consuming a mind-bending chilli, did I expect England to walk the first Test in India.
Here’s what stood out to me during the first Test.
Dom Bess: This tour was always likely to be defined by how well our spinners bowled. And didn’t they do well in Chennai! Dom Bess is turning into the proverbial golden arm. He doesn’t half take wickets in fortuitous circumstances. I’ve been watching cricket for decades but I’ve never seen a long hop pulled onto short leg’s shoulder and then balloon straight to mid-wicket. However, it’s worth pointing out that big bad Dom also bowled some peaches. The crucial wicket of Kohli in the first innings was a classic off-spinner’s dismissal.
Jack Leach: I’m as pleased as punch for Leach. I think we all feared the worst when Pant took him to the cleaners in the first innings but he rallied brilliantly. The bloke has faced a lot during his short career – Crohn’s disease, questions about his action and, worst of all, typically poor mishandling by the selectors and management. However, these setbacks seem to have built up his character. A perfectly good international spinner in this observer’s opinion, Leach now boasts the same Test average as Graeme Swann (30) and exactly the same strike rate too (60). What’s more, he’s only just got started.
Dom Sibley: Test cricket is alive and well and living in Dom Sibley. You’ve got to love it when an old-fashioned opener bats all day for just 80 runs and absorbs over 250 odd deliveries. And if you don’t, just imagine how much it must wind up Tom Harrison, Colin Graves, and all those other weirdos who promote the concept of 4-day Test cricket. Sibley obviously works tremendously hard at his game and the improvement since the first Test in Sri Lanka is obvious. Well done fella.
Jimmy Anderson: We’ve talked about his bowling ad nauseam. There’s little else we can add. He’s just a class act and, like Tom Brady, age doesn’t seem to wither him. Just take that diving catch to dismiss Gill in the first dig. Remarkable. He must be the most athletic 38 and a half year of all time. Don’t you go changing, Jimmy.
Joe Root: With a mere 218 in the first innings, and a useful 40 in the second, captain fantastic remains a fantastic player of spin. His career average is above 50 once more – which is exactly where it belongs – and the confidence has come flooding back. He’s the best England batsman for the last 30 years. And I won’t hear a word against him today.
The Toss: Yes, yes, we know the toss was crucial. It always is in India. If you can score big runs and grind the opposition into the dust then you stand a great chance of winning the game. However – and it’s a big however – you’ve still got to actually, you know, take advantage of the conditions. Scoreboard pressure doesn’t create itself. And then your bowlers have to be good enough to press home the advantage.
Let’s not forget what happened the last time we toured India in 2016. We won the toss and batted in the third, fourth, and fifth Tests. We lost all three by an innings.
The series is set up brilliantly now. I wouldn’t be surprised if India come storming back but we’ll always have Chennai. Congrats lads.