Lutters’ summer lines – part seven

A VICTORIOUS start for England in the series that could take them to the top of the ICC world rankings for Test Matches. And what a victory it was too against the current number one ranked side, India.

Wednesday, 27th July 2011, 1:53 pm

There were a number of great performances from players under pressure. Kevin Pietersen scored a superb double century in the first innings in what most commentators would describe as “bowler-friendly conditions”.

It was his first century on British soil in Test matches for a number of years, and for someone the crowds and his team-mates rely upon to score heavily, it was not before time. His recent form has been patchy, but this innings cemented his place in the England top order for a couple more series at the very least.

Stuart Broad, another player under pressure, had a great game despite only lasting one ball in the first innings. His figures of 4-37 from 22 overs in the first innings were superb, and he followed that with three more wickets (which should have been more had it not been for a couple of baffling umpiring decisions) in the second.

Sandwiched between his return to form with the ball was a well-crafted 74 not out. His selection was debatable but certainly drank heartily at the last chance saloon. He isn’t the most popular player in England’s ranks as far as fans are concerned (I’d describe him as a “marmite” cricketer) but he has certainly silenced his doubters, for a while at least.

Other great performances came from Matt Prior on his century in the second innings (as well as his 71 in the first), James Anderson for his third inclusion on the honours board having taken five second-innings wickets and Chris Tremlett for his first-innings performance. Jonathan Trott’s first innings 70 barely needs mentioning as it’s almost expected now.

It truly was a team performance and a genuine stuffing of India.

India did have quite a lot of bad luck. Their best bowler, Zaheer Khan, strained a hamstring after just 13.3 overs which left their attack requiring dentures, and their batting looks a little fragile in English conditions (whether Tendulkar has a virus or not) compared to home where the ball rarely moves off straight.

That’s not to say that they are not an exceptionally talented side, but playing over half your career on flat wickets won’t do your batting average any harm, although your bowling average may look a little green around the gills.

If England win the series by two clear matches then the number one spot is theirs. It is certainly possible, but England should expect the Indians to come at them hard at Trent Bridge.

I would like to just quickly mention the umpires in the match: Billy Bowden (New Zealand) and Asad Rauf (Pakistan), who officiated without the aid of TV replays for lbw decisions as India still aren’t convinced by the technology.

Both officials had excellent games until day five when Bowden failed to give two decisions, described as “howlers” by pundits. It is these poor decisions that the DRS (Decision Review System) was brought in to eradicate, and had England not won the game (as both decisions went against the hosts), they could have had a legitimate grievance.

I realise that there has been plenty of cricket since I last wrote, but “noddy ODIs” as a colleague of mine would say are of no interest, although I ought to congratulate Sussex on their qualification for the Friends Life T20 quarter-finals on August 8 against Lancashire and wish them luck.