The first cricket test match between India and England ended a couple of days ago with a victory for the home team by what ultimately was a comprehensive margin (9 wickets). England have a history of performing poorly when playing in the Indian sub continent, so on the face of it England are on course for another comprehensive series loss. But maybe this time things are going to be a little different.
True, in the first half of the match England were not really at the races. It was too easy for the Indian batsmen to score runs on a very flat pitch after winning the toss. This was further compounded by England almost self-destructing in their first innings. At this point it looked like England would lose within the first three days of the five-day test match, but then things started to change.
In England’s second innings, very slowly, and ball by ball the visitors started to score a few runs and began to grow in confidence. True, they still ultimately lost the game but some of the batters started to grow in confidence and began to believe they were actually able to perform in the conditions.
England have become a little obsessed with playing against spinners in recent years and have looked to change their game accordingly. But what the new England captain (Alistair Cook) showed was that by playing to your strengths you can master the conditions and the opposition. Matt Prior did the same thing, a very different type of player but by playing his brand of attacking cricket he was able to score freely.
Tactically England looked to have gone into the game very cautiously with a team selection that aired on the side of doubt. The game plan was not helped by losing the toss and having to bat second rather than first. But in a way this outcome should help to provide clarity for the team for the remaining test matches. In order to draw the series England need to win one of the three remaining games, to win the series England need to win two of the remaining three. With this in mind the team have to set themselves up to be able to win subsequent games. This should also help to provide clarity to their overall mindset and to their decision-making.
While it is always important to know the opposition and their strengths and weaknesses, it is too important to be able to play to your strengths as a team. This usually gives you the best chance of winning. The first game in these types of series is always important, and it is better to win than to not. But there is plenty of evidence out there of teams who have recovered from an early setback to go on and win a series across a number of sports. The green shoots of recovery were present in the England teams’ second innings, so let’s hope that this continues into the second test here in Mumbai on Thursday.