Lutters’ 2011 summer lines – part eight

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THE summer just gets better and better for England, who should be on course to be the best Test match team in the world by the end of it.

India, current number 1s, look weak and lack fight, but that could be partly down to England’s performances, as well as poor Indian preparation.

The game at Trent Bridge didn’t begin as planned for the hosts. They were on the proverbial rocks at 124-8 before Broad and Swann decided to take the fight to the Indian bowling attack, piling on 73 runs for the ninth wicket as Broad continued his great form with the bat by scoring 64. The Nottinghamshire man then took that form into his bowling by claiming 6-46, including a hat-trick.

After that, it was all England as they amassed 544 in the second innings, leaving India to score a mammoth and ultimately insurmountable 478 to win. Ian Bell’s 159, Kevin Pietersen’s 63, Eoin Morgan’s 70, Matt Prior’s 79 and Tim Bresnan’s 90, along with Broad’s quickfire 44 put the game out of site as the Indians collapsed under some aggressive bowling from the English seamers, with Bresnan claiming his best Test match figures of 5-48, while only the “Little Master”, Sachin Tendulkar, offered any real resistance with the bat.

Once again, it was a team performance from England as they smashed the Indians out of site for the second Test match running. As a result, many of the England side have risen in the world rankings. Bell’s into the top five batsmen and Broad into the top 10 bowlers after a barren spell, among others.

The next Test match begins next week in Birmingham but India should have three important players back: Zaheer Khan, Gautam Gambhir and perhaps, most importantly, Virender Sehwag.

India have lacked any sort of fight with the bat, a fact personified by Yuvraj Singh (another Marmite cricketer, yet undoubtedly talented) as he started to walk off having been caught behind off his elbow, having faced a barrage of short-pitched bowling that made him look decidedly average and uncomfortable.

He wasn’t the only player made to look ill at ease against the England quicks, though. England clearly have a plan, and frankly it’s an obvious one to any team from the sub-continent, and that is to bowl short to batsmen who are used to the batsman-friendly tracks back home.

Very few of the Indian top order seem to be able to play the short ball effectively, with the exceptions being Rahul Dravid (a class act full stop) and VVS Laxman (who waits on the back foot, so is susceptible to the full ball).

Former India captain, and yet another Marmite man, Sourav Ganguly, has said that India should not be the best team in the world as they haven’t won in South Africa or England, which he considers to be the proof in the Test match pudding. India can’t win this series, but they can prevent England reaching the summit of Test cricket by not allowing England to win it by two clear games. At the rate they are going, they will do well to avoid losing by four clear games.

One thing that has impressed me hugely about the Indian side, though, is the conduct of most of their players, and in particular MS Dhoni, their skipper, and Dravid, who has consistently been sent out to face the press to explain away another poor day for India.

Dhoni’s (and Duncan Fletcher, the team coach’s) decision to reinstate Ian Bell after he was legally run-out during his second innings is worthy of utmost praise.

People talk about the spirit of cricket, but acts like that only push the game above and beyond the realms of many other sports.

I couldn’t see a similar think occurring in a Premier League football match could you? In fact, the referee would probably start brandishing cards left, right and centre for insolence – seemingly their answer to everything. I would say at this point that Mr Bell was a very lucky man to be allowed to continue his innings, a fact that he all but admitted in interview at the end of the day.

Dhoni and Dravid have interviewed superbly well after games, despite their team going through a rough patch, and I’m sure that most international, as well as domestic cricket captains, would do the same.

They both come across as intelligent and fantastic ambassadors for the game of cricket as a whole. I know this sounds a touch patronising, but I’ve not seen of lot of the two players being interviewed before and their conduct has been exemplary.

India will have to buck their ideas up, though, if they are to avoid the wrath of their cricket-loving public back home, no matter how well they interview.

I suggest that their batsmen practise playing the short ball in the nets, as I suspect that England will be bowling a few half-trackers at them in Birmingham next week.