FORMER all-rounder Sir Ian Botham led the tributes after England claimed a landmark series success in India.
Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell both registered centuries to safely negotiate a draw in the final Test in Nagpur as England sealed a 2-1 win – their first series triumph in India for nearly 28 years. Not many would have predicted that result after a nine-wicket humbling in the first match but a fabulous team effort saw them claim an unlikely victory.
Botham, still England’s leading wicket-taker in Tests, was full of praise for seamer James Anderson and spin duo Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar, whose stock rose after being omitted in Ahmedabad. “He (Anderson) has been tremendous and he’s been well supported,” Botham said. “He’s been the seamer that’s been there throughout the series but he’s had – apart from the debacle of the first Test – from the second Test onwards, he’s had the two spinners to work with. Between them the combination of those three has been the difference. All three of them out-bowled their opponents. Jimmy - he’s the leader – Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann is some combination.”
Botham, who took 13 wickets and scored a century in a one-off Test to mark the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s Golden Jubilee in 1980, also highlighted England’s superior fitness in unforgiving sub-continent conditions. “When you’re playing in these conditions it’s hard work, it’s hot, it’s unfriendly to bowlers, it’s hard work for batsmen concentrating and all in all England outshone India in every side of fitness,” he added.
Former England opener Nick Knight pinpointed Alastair Cook’s century in the loss in Ahmedabad as the changing point in the series. Cook registered the first of three hundreds in a losing cause but Knight said: “We’ve all been talking about the dramatic turnaround from that first Test match to the second, third and fourth,” he said. “The way Alastair Cook played in that second innings of that Ahmedabad Test match maybe just settled the whole team down.”
THE SERIES IN NUMBERS
23: Alastair Cook became the first England batsman to make 23 Test centuries when he reached three figures in the third Test in Kolkata. The England captain struck three hundreds and was the leading run-scorer in the series with 562 at an average of 80.28.
438: Cheteshwar Pujara began the series with a double hundred in Ahmedabad and followed that up with a century in the first innings in Mumbai. He only went on to score another 56 runs in the next four innings but still finished as India’s leading scorer.
20: Graeme Swann and Pragyan Ojha finished as the joint highest wicket-takers. While the England off-spinner’s scalps came at an average of 24.75, Ojha’s was 30.75.
52.64: Spinner Ravichandran Ashwin was hyped up by the Indians heading into this series but his 14 wickets came at an expensive average. He may be retained by his country after showing some mettle with the bat.
43: Ian Bell has been criticised for his lack of runs on the sub-continent and while this average is flattered by two not-out innings, the right-hander finally scored his first century (116no) in India in the final Test in Nagpur today.
288: Despite struggling initially, James Anderson came into his own in the last two Tests and his 12 wickets across the four matches pushed his career total close to 300 scalps.