Win when you're swinging
Bob Willis was impressed with the swing bowling at Trent Bridge.
By Bob Willis
Last Updated: 07/08/07 6:26am
England fans will be disappointed with the defeat that was finally completed before lunch on Monday by India but they can take refuge in the thought that it was a case of win the toss, win the match.
The side losing the toss would have preferred that there be no play at all on Friday with those perfect conditions for bowling. The Indians exploited them well in both innings and the two left-arm swingers were quite outstanding, particularly after their poor showing in the first innings at Lord's, but it was a great toss to win.
This Test match has been an entertaining one for lots of reasons but the swing bowling from both sides has been excellent. I haven't seen what you might call orthodox swing bowling like this for many moons.
We saw Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis with reverse swing but it has been ages since we have seen conventional swing bowling of this high a quality and the two deliveries that RP Singh bowled to dismiss Kevin Pietersen and Matt Prior were quite outstanding.
Peter Moores and David Graveney will have some tough decisions to make in the future if Ryan Sidebottom, Chris Tremlett and James Anderson continue to bowl as they have in the last two Test matches.
When the 2005 Ashes bowlers are fit again, England face a minor conundrum in knowing who to select. Sidebottom was the pick of England's attack at Trent Bridge and could get into the side with Steve Harmison and Matthew Hoggard.
I don't think you would pick Harmison and Tremlett - they are too similar - so it is one or the other of them, and Anderson is just shaded into third place by the others because he conceded more runs but he was equally unlucky on occasions in Nottingham.
Right now I think Sidebottom and Tremlett are vying for places with the 2005 Ashes four but I don't put Anderson in that class, although he is better than Sajid Mahmood and Liam Plunkett.
There may be the temptation to tinker with the batting line-up for the final Test of the summer at the Oval but England tend to be loyal to their batsmen. Matt Prior and Ian Bell aren't convincing at the moment and Alastair Cook has trouble with the swinging ball and apart from Michael Vaughan, none of them are in the form of their lives at the moment.
The problems are exacerbated by the swinging ball and England's selectors will keep the line-up as it is. Bell and Prior - who has only been playing for five minutes - all average in the 40s, so you are unlikely to drop people who are doing that, but they are not convincing me under pressure.
England could win at the Oval, where you always find a good pitch, but the Indian batting line-up will have taken an enormous amount of confidence from their first innings effort. Never mind the middle order, under siege before Trent Bridge, the Indians will be happy that their opening partnership put on a big stand as it is an area in which they have struggled even since before the days of Sunil Gavaskar.
Wasim Jaffer and Dinesh Khartik played very well, the middle order is also firing and the bowlers are swinging it dangerously; England will have their work cut out to avoid a series defeat.
Bob Willis answers your questions
Hello, Bob predicted at the end of the last Test match that Tendulkar, Ganguly, Laxman and Dravid are not going to perform as they are nearing their "end" and will struggle in the series! Does he change his view now after this Test performance? Dr Desai, London.
BOB SAYS: Not particularly. I think they are on the way down the slope still but clearly will have been boosted by their performance at Nottingham. I stick with that I said and I think India should be looking to integrate some new, young batting into their line-up. I still feel that Ganguly, Tendulkar and Laxman have been protected by not wanting to go in first when the furnace is at its hottest.
Hi Bob, what have you made of all the so-called sledging going on at Trent Bridge? It looks pretty pathetic to me and not the sort of thing you would have got involved with? Did you ever have any slanging matches on the field with any batsmen? Steve Mithers.
BOB SAYS: I don't think verbals and gesticulation have much place on the cricket field. I prefer to see games played without it. I guess we can thank the Australians for "mental disintegration" as they call it, but I don't think there is any place for sledging in cricket. It should be a noble game and the spirit of the game is synonymous with good behaviour and not gamesmanship. The boys on the commentary box have called it childish and pathetic and that is just about right. Sreesanth lost it completely and the referee came down pretty heavily on him. That should be a message to the others to behave.