The current test series between England and India has lived up to its billing as an excellent test series between two strong and evenly matched sides in English conditions. The pre-cursor to a good series is the unknown element about which factors will end up being the difference between the two sides and separate them at the end of the allotted number of tests. India have battled excellently throughout, winning the second test comfortably and battling hard in losing efforts that they could have easily won.
The series has had quite a few recurring themes during the four tests played so far this summer. The main theme has been the dominance of the bowl over bat with both top orders struggling badly against two fine bowling attacks in helpful bowling conditions throughout the tests. The exception to this being Virat Kohli who in another sub-plot has established himself now as the undisputed top batsman in the world.
The struggles of batsman throughout have led to the major difference between the sides being the length of batting England possess with a highly unusual amount of high class all-rounders at their disposal to come after the regular loss of early wickets and specialist batsman and making excellent and what has proved match defining contributions with the bat in what mainly have been low scoring affairs. Having an area of strength in a tight (and low scoring) contest can make the Man of the Match market very appealing.
Selecting one player from 22 can seem quite a daunting and difficult proposition. With one area of the game being more prominent than the other, ruling out batsman from both sides (except for Kohli) can almost half the field in one go. This then would put the focus on the bowling line ups from both sides, usually a side would have one or maybe two outstanding candidates and have conditions in their favour which would make them a more appealing prospect than the rest of the attack.
Both sides though had well balanced bowling lines ups with each member of their attacks capable of taking wickets and the pitch’s themselves aiding both seam and spin and keeping all bowlers interested and as such the bowling and (wickets) being shared around, leaving no one performer to stand out significantly from the others.
The lack of runs from the batsman and wickets being distributed evenly offered a real opportunity for all-rounders to make a real impact and alter the course of matches with late order runs with the game in the balance and the chance to chip in with wickets when their team were in the field. This has proved to come into effect in all four of the tests played. The first match, in which runs were at a premium saw a late blitz from Sam Curran turn the game around with 63 precious runs in the second innings and added by five wickets across both innings saw him take the award. A similar theme came to prominence in the second match with India bowled out cheaply and England struggling in their efforts with the bat and rescued by Chris Woakes batting at No7 and making a match winning 137 not out, combined with four wickets to make him an easy winner.
India managed to pull a test back and win the third match, their only all-rounder Hardik Pandya was incredibly unlucky not be the man of the match with a match turning spell of five wickets in a session to swing the game massively in his side favour and followed up by a second innings unbeaten 50 which only lost to the very rare batting brilliance of Kohli a few runs short of making a century in both innings of the test. The last match as well saw Moeen Ali score a vital 40 in a low scoring game with wickets in both innings for his MOTM and prove it truly has been a series for the all-rounder.
Unfortunately, my man of the match picks were England’s best and most consistent all-rounder in Ben Stokes and India’s only genuine performer in both facets in Hardik Pandya – proving to be the right type of cricketer and role influence the game but the wrong man to do it.
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