ENGLAND’S celebrations were deserved yet muted after they at last broke their long winless streak against India at the Ageas Bowl.
There was a coyness about Alastair Cook and his team’s response to overdue success – understandable on at least two counts, even after Moeen Ali and James Anderson’s wickets hurried them home by 266 runs with two sessions to spare.
For Cook, there were evident reasons for satisfaction after he returned to form with 165 runs in a first Test win since the 2013 Ashes were clinched almost a year and 11 matches ago.
He was beset before this third Investec Test with calls, from among others at least six former England captains, to hand the reins of the “new era” over to someone else.
But he held his nerve, backed his ability and that of his team – and emerged with a series- levelling win on the back of his big runs, as well as those of Ian Bell and Gary Ballance, and then respective seven and eight-wicket match hauls from Anderson and Moeen. Even so, after India were bowled out for 178 in their second innings, both Cook and man-of-the-match Anderson felt the need to exercise restraint in the moment of victory.
Anderson, especially, has inevitable mixed feelings as he awaits this morning’s International Cricket Council disciplinary hearing – and possible four-Test ban – for allegedly “pushing and abusing” Ravindra Jadeja during the first Test at Trent Bridge.
Cook not only knows he may have to get by without his frontline bowler but also that one win in 11 – after last winter’s Ashes whitewash, and still only 1-1 with two to play against India – is hardly reason to go overboard just yet. He was not about to under-sell England’s performance, but he is not proclaiming a sea change just yet.
“It’s a very small step,” he said. It’s only one win. We’ll enjoy this feeling – someone told me it’s 353 days [since the last one]. That’s a very long time.”
Yet there was much to encourage England and their supporters here. “We had as good a game as you can have – that’s what the turnaround is [since last week’s defeat at Lord’s],” Cook added.
“We got greedy in the first innings – and that set up the game. When you do that, you start getting ahead of the game and can dictate it – and that’s what we did.”
The improvements shown by Cook himself and his senior players was most telling.
“The guys who were slightly questioned at the beginning of this Test match really delivered,” he added.
“It was a great week for us as an England team – for [returning coach] Peter Moores to get his first Test match win, for the [other] guys who haven’t experienced one before.”
He acknowledges, however, much hard work remains to be done before England can start crowing again. “The important thing now is we back up that consistency, which we’ve kind of been lacking a little bit this summer, and take it on to [next week’s fourth Test] at Old Trafford,” he added. Long before then, Cook will discover whether he can still call on Anderson – and he is not about to pre-empt the decision of ICC judicial commissioner Gordon Lewis.
He did, however, say: “I just hope common sense prevails. I hope we’ll see Jimmy at Old Trafford in his home Test match.”
Anderson was asked about the hearing five times at a post-match press conference, but had to be careful with his answers – on express orders from the ICC.
“I have no idea. . . I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen,” Anderson said. “I obviously want to be playing at Old Trafford in my home Test.”
India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni gave no public endorsement to rumours that the tourists’ governing body has uncovered previously unavailable and incriminating evidence against Anderson and his behaviour towards Jadeja in the Trent Bridge pavilion stairwell.
“I am not aware,” he said, preferring simply to look ahead to the remainder of a series. “It will be a test of character for all of us . . . and our fitness also.”