Who’s number one?

Allan Donald today claimed that England deserve to recognised as the best test team in the world; he therefore joined the hundreds of cricket pundits and armchair fans waxing lyrical about England’s victory at Lord’s. It’s one big love-in at the moment. If England had a run for every pat on the back they’ve had since Monday afternoon, they’d already have enough to win the Trent Bridge Test by an innings. But are we getting ahead of ourselves? There’s evidence to suggest that we are.

England won the first test by 197 runs. It sounds like a reasonably comprehensive margin on paper, but India were hampered by a number of problems. Were these hindrances worth almost two hundred runs? You don’t have to be a Sachin groupie to see that they probably were.

After the injury to Zaheer Khan (their best bowler and only seamer with experience of English conditions) India were reduced to three bowlers – yet they still had England’s batsmen panicking on Sunday afternoon. It took what I consider to be one of the great innings from Matt Prior to save the day.

We all know Zaheer is a class act, but Sharma and Kumar also looked dangerous at times – the latter was a revelation in my book. When they’re all fit and firing, they will be a potent unit. As for Harbhajan, surely he can’t bowl as badly again?

It’s also hard to ignore the Virender Sehwag factor. Later in the series, India will welcome back the most destructive opening batsman in world cricket. If Sehwag had been strutting his stuff at Lord’s, Strauss probably would have declared later – who knows, India might have scored more runs too. The result was therefore clearly influenced by the absence of one of Asia’s great batsmen.

The Indian second innings was disrupted by a variety of factors – none of which are likely to happen again. The chances of Tendulkar getting ill, and Gambhir getting whacked on the elbow, were about as slim as a Bollywood beauty queen, yet they coincided catastrophically for India – and all very conveniently for England.

Would a batting order of Sehwag, Gambhir, Dravid, Tendulkar, and Laxman – easily the strongest line-up in world cricket – have folded so meekly if they’d batted in their normal positions? Somehow I doubt it.

After the match, the cool as a pickled cucumber Indian captain, MS Dhoni, wasn’t too downbeat. He knew that bad luck had played its part in India’s defeat. Imagine if England have been reduced to three bowlers instead? There’s no doubt the result would have been different. Indeed, the five-bowler brigade would have been walking around with chests puffed out like Darren Gough after taking a hat-trick.

Finally, to say that India were undercooked was an understatement – they had hardly touched the pan. The tourists have a reputation for starting series slowly, and even Andrew Strauss expects them to improve as the series progresses.

It’s extremely difficult for any touring team to compete when they aren’t fully prepared. Remember England’s problems under Duncan Fletcher – the thirteen-a-side warm-up matches and humiliating defeats in the first test? England have learned this lesson, but India have not. It’s not the Indian team’s fault, it’s their blasted administrators.

It’s also important to remember that we’ve only played one test out of four. All things being equal, we’ll know who the better side is by the end of the series – but only then. All things were certainly not even at Lord’s. Let’s leave the champagne on ice for now.

James Morgan


  • Tosh. Sehwag is awesome in T20s and ODIs but he is rarely going to bat for long enough against a quality seam attack to win a Test match, especially in swinging conditions.

    As an England fan, I hope the gutsy and tidy looking Mukund is dropped for Sehwag.

    Secondly, one could argue – as the always excellent Steve James does – that the Indian misfortune is of their own making: Zaheer Kahn declared himself fit, despite not bowling in the second innings at Somerset. Similarly, we are led to understand, Tendulkar, Gambhir etc. are the ones who make the final decisions on their fitness pre-matches. Too much player power? Quite possibly.

  • So let me just get this straight. You think that Sehwag, who averages 53 in test cricket with 22 hundreds (more than anybody in the England team!) is not a threat?! And Tendulkar and Gambhir only have themselves to blame for (a) picking up a virus, and (b) getting hit on the elbow at short leg. Come on folks, you can do better than that!

    Incidentally, the debate is not about whether England deserved to win the Lord’s test, but how much can we read into the victory. Does it really mean that England are now the world’s best team, and better than India? One victory, when there were mitigating factors, proves little. If England emerge victorious at the end of the series – and obviously we all hope they do – then is the time for celebrations and pats on the back.

  • FYI – Sehwag averages 31 against England, and – as most India fans will tell you – is getting worse by the season as age hinders his amazing eye.

    You’ve misrepresented me on Tendulkar/Gambhir. Are you a journalist? ;-)

    • If Sehwag scores 180 in his next test against England, his average will go to ONLY 39 against England. Would you still drop him then?

  • It’s not a question of dropping him. Mukund is the man in possession and has done well in the West Indies (few did) and also in the 1st test. He is set to be dropped for Sehwag.

    I’ll be stunned if a rusty Sehwag get’s a ton at Trent Bridge – a ground where the ball tends to swing more than most. But if he did, of course I wouldn’t drop him. Batsmen getting runs – like Mukund – should never be dropped.

    • ‘Batsmen getting runs – like Mukund – should never be dropped’ – he has one 50 in his last ten innings in all cricket, hardly form to guarantee his place.

      • 48, 49 and 60-something in his last 3 Tests.

        But it’s the Dravid-like way Mukund has been getting his runs which has impressed me: he bats for ages and ages, is technically very tidy and gives the impression he will go on to a mammoth individual score.

        Early days, and no doubt Flower and the analysts are studying his technique as I write, but I am a fan.

        The latest seems to be Sehwag will not play at Trent Bridge.

  • Sehwag is one of the best Test batsman of his generation – not in the Ponting/Tendulkar class but he has scored 22 Test tons…he is a very very good player! OK, so when the ball swings he might not approach his Test match average every innings, but come on!


copywriter copywriting