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Recollections from 2012-13: The most notable overseas series for England in the 21st century.
Cricket Sport

Recollections from 2012-13: The most notable overseas series for England in the 21st century.

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When considering England’s best Test accomplishment overseas in the 21st century, the first thought is often towards an exceptional achievement against Australia. In the midst of two disappointing defeats, a 3-1 away victory 13 years ago remains remarkable, with each win being achieved by an innings. Despite facing a formidable opposition featuring players such as Ricky Ponting, Mike Hussey, Michael Clarke, and Mitchell Johnson, England emerged victorious. Apart from this tour, England’s record in Australia this century stands at 22 losses, two draws, and only one win, making their performance during those few weeks even more exceptional.

Despite the expansive playing fields that can easily overwhelm players, Australia’s strong lineup, including Steve Smith, has not made them unbeatable in recent times. Following England’s win, South Africa has also claimed two series victories and India has had a couple of their own.

In India, the dominant duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have led the home team to a decade of success, with visiting teams unable to come close. Over the past 11 years, India has won 14 consecutive series, with the exception of two one-off Tests which they also emerged victorious in. Looking back further, only three touring Test sides have managed to defeat India in the 21st century: South Africa in 2000, Australia in 2004, and Alastair Cook’s team in late 2012. Cook’s impressive performance as captain led England to victory, surpassing even their successful Ashes tour.

The situation was not promising as a series of losses in Asia began the year. Pakistan’s Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman led the team to a 3-0 victory in the United Arab Emirates. In Sri Lanka, Rangana Herath’s left-arm bowling resulted in 19 wickets over two Tests, and a brilliant century from Kevin Pietersen was needed to tie the series.

During the summer, there was a soap opera. Pietersen was unhappy because he believed his teammates were involved with a fake Twitter account that mocked him. However, he had a moment of relief when he scored 149 points against South Africa at Headingley. But then came “textgate”, where he was removed from the team for the Lord’s match. This led to a series defeat and the loss of their previously earned No 1 ranking. In his autobiography, Jonathan Trott wrote, “Losing was one thing, but the real problem was how our team spirit slowly fell apart as the summer went on.”

Pietersen was not excluded for a significant amount of time, despite his lackluster performance in the first Test in Ahmedabad in mid-November. He was dismissed twice by left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha. The rest of the English team also struggled, resulting in a low score of 191 in response to India’s 521 for eight. George Dobell of Cricinfo described England’s struggle against spin as “blind men reaching for a bench that wasn’t there.”

A team from India who was undergoing changes still maintained a high level of performance. Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag, who scored a quick 117 runs in the first innings, were approaching retirement. Meanwhile, Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara, who achieved an impressive double century, were emerging as key players. In just his ninth Test match, Ashwin became the fastest Indian player to reach 50 Test wickets.

Monty Panesar tries to take a catch against Mumbai A during the second day of a practice match in 2012

“After a nine-wicket loss, England coach Andy Flower expressed his confidence in the team and asked to be judged after three upcoming Tests. Despite their defeat, Flower was encouraged by the team’s performance in the second innings after being forced to follow on. Alastair Cook, in his first Test as full-time captain, scored 176 runs, with debutant Nick Compton providing support for 45 overs and Matt Prior finishing with 91 runs. Following his dismissal in the second innings, Kevin Pietersen immediately went to the nets to work on his footwork, determined to have his bat feel like a natural extension of his body for the next Test, as he wrote in his autobiography.”

The opening performance in Mumbai was dominated by Monty Panesar, who had been left out in the previous match by England. He proved his worth by taking 11 wickets, while Graeme Swann contributed eight. This duo had previously shown their partnership skills at Wantage Road and continued to excel at the Wankhede. One of the highlights was Panesar’s left-handed delivery to Tendulkar on the first day, utilizing the available turn and bounce. His strength lay in the pace he added to his spin, as seen in a 59.3mph curving ball towards the leg-side that knocked over the off-stump of the beloved Tendulkar.

England’s first innings brought together Cook’s cold-bloodedness with Pietersen’s just-watch-me flamboyance, their partnership worth 206 and the latter’s 186 quickly inked in as an epic, a collection of dinky sweeps and lofted drives. Pietersen compared the standing ovation he received from the home crowd to “getting flowers thrown at you for singing opera at La Scala in Milan. It doesn’t happen much for blokes from Pietermaritzburg.”

A dominant win by 10 wickets was followed by another impressive victory with seven wickets at Eden Gardens. Cook once again showed his prowess with a massive score of 190. This time, it was a seamer at the forefront, taking six wickets, but it was Jimmy Anderson’s technique that had Mike Selvey singing his praises: “When the ball starts to reverse, there is no one in the world who can match him, except for Zaheer Khan (who may still cause trouble for England).” Over ten years later, Anderson will be called upon to make the old ball move and deceive once more.

The last and fourth Test was a glimpse into the future, as a 21-year-old newcomer played 229 balls to score 73 runs and secure a draw, sealing the series. Kevin Pietersen commented, “I always say not to judge someone after just a few hours of batting for England, but he displayed potential for a successful Test career.” On the first day, India also introduced their own young player, a 24-year-old with three triple hundreds in first-class cricket. Jadeja’s left-arm spin would prove to be more valuable than his batting in the following years.

For Root and Jadeja, the beginning; for that England side, a last win on their travels before an Ashes implosion a year later led to a bitter breakup. Time has only elevated their Indian achievement.

Hazlewood becomes part of an exclusive group.

Josh Hazlewood recently reached his 250th Test wicket, making him one of four Australian bowlers to achieve this feat. The other three are Nathan Lyon (512), Mitchell Starc (348), and Pat Cummins (262). These four players have formed a strong attacking unit for the past seven years, having played around 50 Tests together. However, statistics show that they have only played 27 Tests as a quartet since Cummins returned as a regular in 2017, which is less than half of Australia’s total number of games during that time.

This serves as a reminder that some groups, particularly those considered iconic, tend to remain in our thoughts for a longer period of time than they were actually active on the field. Factors such as injuries, rotation, and conditions often hinder their time together. For instance, Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, Shane Warne, and Brett Lee only played 16 Tests together, with most of them occurring within a span of 17 months. Interestingly, their 2005 Ashes rivals – Steve Harmison, Simon Jones, Andrew Flintoff, and Matthew Hoggard – also played 16 Tests together, which was higher than anticipated due to Jones’s struggles with injuries.

The West Indies had a formidable group of four players consisting of Colin Croft, Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, and Joel Garner who played 11 games together. The trio of Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh, and Malcolm Marshall had a total of 28 games together between 1988 and 1991, but we are bending the rules a bit by counting trios. Ashwin, Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah, and Mohammed Shami have only played three Tests together so far, which may seem reasonable but also feels like a missed opportunity. The Spin would be interested to know about any other combinations that you may have thought have played more or less, or have never even crossed paths.

:

“Quote of the week: “

“I always dreamed of playing for India, and when I feel tired, I use that dream as motivation. That’s where my smile comes from,” reveals Jasprit Bumrah in a delightful interview with Ali Martin, explaining why he differs from other temperamental fast bowlers.

Memory lane

In February 2006, the groundstaff were getting the wicket ready at Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai for England’s first match on their tour of India. The series concluded with a tied Test series and a 5-1 loss in the ODI matches.

To February 2006 as groundstaff prepare the wicket at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai before the first stop on England’s tour of India

Still want more?

Mark Ramprakash argues that in order to be successful in India, England must find a balance between risk-taking and potential gains.

Ali Martin concedes that achieving victory in India is a challenging feat for tourists.

Geoff Lemon expresses regret over Australia’s decisive victory against the former powerhouse West Indies, citing it as evidence that unequal Test cricket matches should no longer be allowed.

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Source: theguardian.com