After 30 years of lulling everyone into a false sense of security, England finally showed their true colours by going ballistic on a rank turner and destroyed their hosts in Mumbai.
The overriding emotion in the hours following England’s triumphant surge to victory on the fourth morning is one of disbelief. The scale of this win is yet to fully sink in, yet everyone acknowledges something special happened here. In Ahmedabad they lost because only three of their players contributed at all, in Mumbai they won thanks, almost entirely, to four. The difference was the sheer scale of their performances and the fact that – blonde Barbie doll fast bowlers with an attitude problem aside – the rest of the side weren’t actively sabotaging the team effort as they were in the first Test.
There is no more damning indictment of India’s performance than the fact they reminded us of England. Their second innings collapse, while set in motion by some excellent bowling, was largely the result of a calamitous, collective brain fade. That it was rounded off this morning by Harbhajan managing to get bounced out by Graeme Swann, Zaheer going for the mother of all misguided slogs and Gambhir, batting like a desperate man making a last-ditch attempt for a not out, falling LBW despite smashing the ball onto his pad, was somewhat appropriate. The poor decisions in the first game were fairly evenly dished out, here they smashed India over the head with said dish and then ran off giggling to Kolkata.
Once the Indian innings had been solemnly smothered, the final run chase could have been a nervous, pokey affair and had England supporters rushing to the gin store even before the sun came up. Instead, Nick Compton leapt out of his crease like a chiselled, better-looking Viv Richards and smashed the bowling to all parts and the visitors won at a canter. This was an important little cameo from England’s latest Adonis; he now knows he can attack
second-rate spinners in these conditions, so doesn’t have to get bogged down as he has threatened to do in his innings so far. As far as positives go from this game this is a minor one, but a load of minors make a plus. Or something.
There are ten days before the show rolls into Kolkata, giving India plenty of time to prepare themselves a green seamer on which they can waltz through England with a devastating display of seam and swing. In the intervening period, it is them who have the selection vultures vulturing away around their side. Is Sachin Tendulkar crap? Does Yuvraj Singh need to make more than eight runs and bowl more than three overs to justify his place in the side? Is MS Dhoni crap? Does Virat Kohli have a glaring technical weakness against the loopy full toss? Is Harbhajan Singh crap?
All of those questions need answering before the third Test, while England are basically fine. We say “basically”, we mean “basically apart from Stuart Broad”, who may need to injure Steven Finn hours before the start again if he’s to remain in the side. They’ll also have to make a decision between the returning Ian Bell (assuming he is coming back, does anyone actually know?) and Jonny Bairstow or Samit Patel. If England have learnt anything from this game, as well as their fortunes since Paul Collingwood retired, it’s that gingers must play at all costs.