Two big powerhouses clashed, went toe to toe with each other; one came out on top in the T20I series and the other took away the ODI honours.
Let us take a look at some key things we have learnt from this enthralling tour thus far.
I Joe Root Has Silenced His Critics
After disappointing outings in the first two T20Is, Root was dropped for the series decider in Bristol. There was a growing concern among fans and experts alike about Root’s prowess in white ball cricket. In fact, he was in line to get dropped from the ODI side had Alex Hales not picked up a side strain.
The 27-year old though responded in sublime fashion by notching up two centuries across the three ODIs; he amassed 216 runs, winning the man of the series award in the process.
The Yorkshire man now has reached the ‘three figures’ mark in ODI cricket on thirteen different occasions, which is more than any other batsman in the history of English cricket and by virtue of his performances in this series, he has proved his doubters wrong and remans a vital cog in the England ODI side.
II The Indian Middle Order Still Looks Brittle
Heading into the ODI series, there were talks about these three games being a part of the preparation for the World Cup next year; India went in with two spots (number 4 and 6) up for grabs, and truth be told, no solution has been found as of yet.
Lokesh Rahul was tried at number 4 in the first two games but he scored only 9 runs in two matches and was subsequently dropped for the final ODI. Dinesh Karthik was given an opportunity in his stead but he couldn’t stamp his authority either.
As far as the number 6 spot is concerned, Suresh Raina was given the nod over his counterparts for his all-round abilities, but his displays were abysmal to say the least. He collected 47 runs in three matches, which, combined with his ineffective bowling and lapses in the field, did not do him any good.
India will have to sort this problem out sooner rather than later, as they could be found wanting in the World Cup, especially if the top order fails to deliver just as it happened in the Champions Trophy final in 2017.
III India Are Too Reliant on Kuldeep Yadav
One big positive for team India from the ODIs and T20s is the form of Kuldeep Yadav; the Chinaman tormented the English batsmen by picking up nine wickets in the three ODIs at an economy rate of 4.93. The English camp decided to use ‘Merlyn’ (the bowling machine) to counter his bowling but it did not pay dividends.
The problem for India though, was the lack of contribution from other bowlers, who in total only managed to claim seven scalps in three matches. The new-ball bowlers didn’t provide breakthroughs in the powerplay, which meant that India was always behind the eight ball when the spinners came on to bowl. Hardik Pandya was erratic with his lines and lengths, and Chahal wasn’t his usual self, which left Kuldeep all on his own to price out wickets.
Indeed, it is fair to say that India missed their spearhead, Jasprit Bumrah, dearly. Adding to that, the way in which the other pacers bowled left the Men in Blue in tatters and it meant that India lost a bilateral ODI series for the first time in 30 months.
IV Ben Stokes’ Form Is a Huge Cause for Concern
Ever since coming back after his suspension, Ben Stokes has looked out of sorts in all formats. He had a mediocre series in New Zealand; he carried the poor form into the IPL for Rajasthan Royals, following which, he tore his hamstring and missed the series against Australia.
The 27-year old made a comeback into the squad for the ODIs against India; however, his shortcomings didn’t help his team one bit. He recorded the second slowest fifty by an English batsman since 2001 in the first ODI. Adding salt to his wounds, the New Zealand born all-rounder failed to pick up a single wicket in the series.
If his poor form persists, England will have to look for alternatives, which they have aplenty in the form of Chris Woakes and Tom Curran. And with David Willey starting to show his skills with the bat, Stokes could be axed from the starting eleven if he keeps putting up abject displays.
V Spinners Will Be the Key in Next Year’s World Cup
Yes. You read that right.The slow bowlers will be more important than the fast bowlers come 2019. It is only fair to say that such things are unheard of; English pitches are traditionally more suited to the quicker bowlers; however, the surfaces over the last couple of months have tended to suggest otherwise.
In the ODI series, Indian spinners took 57.9% of the wickets, while the pacers picked up 26.3%. As for England, Adil Rashid emerged as their leading wicket taker (six wickets in three matches at an economy rate of 4.96) in the series.
Even in the ODIs against Australia, Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid picked up twelve wickets a piece, and the Aussies struggled throughout the series as they lacked a quality spinner. Pitches in England have become a lot drier, which inevitably makes it more suitable for spin bowling, as a result of which, teams like Afghanistan and Bangladesh will fancy their chances to stage an upset or two at the World Cup.
It has been an intriguing tour thus far, and the focus now shifts from the white-ball to the red-ball. India hammered England 4-0 when the two sides met the previous time whilst 4 years ago in England, Moeen Ali dismantled the Indian batting line-up to guide the home side to a 3-1 victory in the five-match series. The hosts have been in dreadful form in test match cricket, losing six out of the last nine matches (winning one and drawing the other two). In contrast, the visitors are ranked number one in the world and they will head into this gargantuan series high on confidence, following an impressive tour of South Africa, where the Indian seamers bowled just as well as their South African counterparts.
England definitely head into the series as favourites but we can’t rule out the young, confident and competitive Kohli-led side just yet.