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India Vs England 2021 Test Series Review: Sharmas, Spinners Overshadowed By Umpiring, Pitch, and Rotation Policy

India Vs England 2021 Test Series Review.

We billed this series as the “Final Before the (WTC) Final” and after overseas victories for both India (vs Australia) and England (Vs Sri Lanka), the series had hype for the right reasons.

Instead this series will be remembered for exactly the wrong reasons—Discussions about the pitches in Chennai & Pink Ball Test, rotation policy & England’s treatment of Moeen Ali, and hasty umpiring decisions (along with Kohli’s priceless reactions).

There were some good days for cricket as well with Ishant Sharma’s 100 Tests & 300 wickets, Joe Root’s 218, Anderson’s dream over, Foakes’ & Pant’s wicket-keeping, R Ashwin’s 100 & 9-fer, Ashwin’s 32 & Axar’s 27 wickets, Sundar’s 85* & 96*, Rohit Sharma’s masterclass, and Pant’s reverse sweep (to Anderson) in a brilliant 100.

Read till the end for my picks for the best moments, emerging players, controversies, and much more! COMMENT BELOW ON YOUR FAVORITE MOMENTS.

*Note: Underlined & Bolded links are videos. Underlined without bold are links to other articles.

Results – England Vs India

The reason why I did not enjoy this series as much was due to the lack of competitiveness. 227 runs, 317 runs, 10 wickets, and an innings victory was in complete contrast to the edge-of-the-seat stuff (last session draws/chases) in the Australia series.

Test Series: India Win 3 – 1

* Player of Match

  1. England Won by 227 Runs *Joe Root
  2. India Won by 317 runs *Ravichandran Ashwin
  3. India Won by 10 wickets *Axar Patel
  4. India Won by An Innings and 25 runs *Rishabh Pant
Player of SeriesEnglandIndia
Ravichandran Ashwin – 189 runs (best of 106, average 31.50, 1 – 100)
Most RunsJoe Root – 368 runs
(best of 218, average 46.00, 100s/50s – 1/0)
Rohit Sharma – 345 runs
(best of 161, average 57.50, 100s/50s -1/1
Most WicketsJack Leach – 18 wickets
(best innings – 4/54, best match – 6/178, 28.72 average, strike rate 53.6)
R Ashwin – 32 wickets
(best innings – 6/61, best match – 9/207, 14.71 average, 35.2 SR, 3 5-fers
India Vs England 2021 Test Series Stats

The Highlights

England

1. We Miss The Non-Converting Joe Root

At the beginning of 2021, Joe Root’s stats read 17-100s, 49-50s. After the Sri Lanka & India tours, his stats read 20-100s, 49-50s. His last 6 Test matches show:

  • 228 & 1 (run-out), 186 & 11, 218 & 40
  • 6 & 33, 17 & 19, 5 & 30

Notice something? He converted 3 daddy hundreds, and then followed it up with 3 middling Test matches (mainly due to the intelligent bowling of Axar and Siraj). Now, we should not be too harsh on Root. The law of averages surely catches up, he had additional stress of captaincy, and he even bowled his heart out including a 5/8.

Still, the Joe Root who scored consistent 60s & 70s might have been more than handy on this low scoring tour. The 50th 50 would be cherry on top of his personally successful season.

2. Batting Wins Matches

Catches win matches? Sure. Need to take 20 wickets to secure a Test victory? Maybe.

How about batting with scores of 178, 134 & 164, 112 & 81, and 205 & 135? Definitely Not. This is called batting yourself out of a Test series. Let us dig a bit deeper:

  • Pope 153 runs at 19.12 (best of 34), Sibley 134 at 16.75 (best of 87) – 4 Tests each
  • Burns 58 runs at 14.50 (best of 33), Bairstow 28 at 7.00 (best of 7, 3 ducks), Crawley 67 at 16.75 (best of 53) – 2 Tests each

For international level cricket, if your Top 5 comprises of these players, barely-in-form Root-Stokes, and Buttler/Foakes, then this is just not going to cut it.

Maybe a certain Joe Denly might have been able to weather the storm better. If not the centuries, at least the Denturies would have come.

3. Anderson, Foakes & Lawrence The Bright Stars

Let us take out the stats for the moment, and look at the bright side.

Winning a Test match is not easy. Winning away even harder. Hence, the 227 run victory in Chennai should be regarded as a huge accomplishment, regardless of the 3-1 margin. (The issue was not the score line. Rather, it was the way they lost the final 3 Test matches).

Jimmy Anderson’s 6/40 in Galle & 3/17 in Chennai should rest the ‘Clouderson’ and ‘poor away record’ claims. That 3/17 included one of the best overs of reverse swing you will ever see. A well set Shubman Gill was bowled through the gate, Rahane survived an umpires call appeal, and then carbon copy bowled. Does not get any better than that.

On the turning pitches, Ben Foakes’ keeping was absolutely magnificent. His split-second stumping of Rohit Sharma and Rishabh Pant in the 2nd innings of the 2nd Test were quite something. (His batting showed signs of defiance, but could not reach his heights of his debut). Finally with 73 on debut and 46 & 50 in the final Test, Dan Lawrence showed some signs of steel.

Finally Channel 4 coverage was a win-win situation for the fans.

India

1. Axar Patel Invokes His Inner Embuldeniya, R Ashwin – The Man of the Hour

Just like Embuldeniya troubled England prior to this tour, Axar was the concern this time around. Straighter one, bounce, turn, guile, he had it all.

The best part is that Axar was not even supposed to play this series if not for Jadeja’s injury. 27 wickets at 10.59 with 4 5-wicket hauls & 1-10 wicket haul (best inning – 6/38, best match 11/70). Even got the opportunity to take a five-wicket haul at his home with some crowd. Stuff of dreams.

R Ashwin has got to be the most intelligent player in international cricket. He has a YouTube channel, reads books in his free time, is an engineer, can mess with the batsmen due to the Mankad-threat, talks to the media about a ‘bad pitch’, walks the talk with a 106 on the Chennai turner, and bamboozles the batsmen with skillful bowling.

The dismissals of Ollie Pope (carrom ball, beats the bat, bowled) in the final Test have to be my moments of this series.

2. The Sharmas Come To The Party

Wonderful achievement by Ishant Sharma for his 100th Test & 300 wickets. Just rewards for a brilliant journey over the last decade. Although this series was spin-dominated, Ishant Sharma 4.0 still has several years to offer to Indian cricket.

Rohit Sharma went very much under the radar this time, but India’s series victory was in jeopardy without his contributions. 161 on a tricky pitch was the turning moment of the series, and he followed it up with patient 26, 66 & 25*, and 49. In these low scoring matches, runs on the board provided the cushion for the spinners to dominate.

3. India’s Big 3 Just Not Good Enough, Depth Covers the Spots

Just like many other well-wishers, I had predicted Virat Kohli to come back in this series with a tough 50 at the start and a a double century by the end. The tough 72 in the 2nd innings at Chennai definitely came, but nowhere near the elusive 71st international century. Here are the stats:

  • Virat Kohli: 172 runs at 28.66 (best of 72, 2-50s, 2 ducks)
  • Ajinkya Rahane: 112 runs at 18.66 (best of 67, 1-50, 1 duck)
  • Cheteshwar Pujara: 133 runs at 22.16 (best of 73, 1-50, 1 duck)

I do not remember so many ducks by these 3. Nor do I remember a series where none fired.

Apart from Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Washington Sundar, & R Ashwin all outscored the middle order stalwarts. Since India emerged victorious, the cracks are temporarily filled, but questions should be asked.

After that Melbourne innings, Rahane has not done enough. Pujara is doing fine and crucial to India’s line up, but is not converting to daddy hundreds at the moment.

Given India’s depth, is it time to breed in the next generation? Is it time to rotate home/away batsmen as India rotates fast bowlers/ spinners?

Also Read:

Controversies

Umpires

The umpiring decisions in the 2nd & 3rd Tests caught the attention of the public. It was not necessarily the decisions made, but the manner in which they were decided (Ben Stokes’ catch – on field out, but turned over quickly). A standard procedure & muting the umpires’ conversation may be the way to go forward here.

Pitch

By the end of the series, it was easily recognized that England’s lack of batting application led to their downfall, not the state of the pitches. However, 2-day & 3-day matches do not anybody a favor, either. The pink ball Test is supposed to get more public to watch the game, but most of these matches are ending in 3 or 4 days, which is counterintuitive. The first Test may have been the most balanced pitch, even though it was slow & attritional for the first day and a half.

Rotation Policy

Finally, the rotation policy. England’s rotation policy has possibly extended the careers of Broad & Anderson, given a chance to youngsters fighting for a national spot, and is important in the coronavirus era due to mental health. Rotation is not necessarily a bad thing, but how it was implemented in this series was dodgy.

Archer, Burns, & Stokes were rested for the series in Sri Lanka, while the rest of the squad stayed. However, Buttler left after one Test, Moeen Ali finally playing a Test only to go back home (due to miscommunication), Bairstow played the last two, Woakes left without playing, so on and so forth.

I cannot imagine how much the constant traveling & jet lag, inconsistency in selection & unsettled line-ups, and not having enough practice games might have impacted their minds. I can understand rotation between series, but during a series is a bit much.

And if this rotation was for the preparation for upcoming T20 World Cup & IPL, losing out to the WTC Final spot at home should seriously be questioned.

Awards

We like to spice things up with our own awards for the series. Here they are:

India made Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel (greatest understudy of all time), and Washington Sundar into world class all-rounders. England took a world class all-rounder in Moeen Ali and practically destroyed a budding career.

IndiaEngland
Emerging PlayerAxar Patel Dan Lawrence, Rotation Policy
Surprise PackageLower Middle OrderDom Bess’s Full Tosses; Joe Root’s 5-fer
Broken Cricket DreamShardul Thakur – Did not get a game after a 92 & 4-fer at Gabba
Dreams Broken For Fans Wanting Ashwin to become the 4th player to do the double of 100 + 10-fer
Stuart Broad’s Asian Dream, Jonny Bairstow’s Test Career, Moeen Ali
India Vs England 2021 Test Series Awards

Where Do They Go From Here?

A 5 match T20I series & 3-match ODI series to follow, preparing for the upcoming T20I World Cup in India. Then, we will have the IPL, England will play a couple of test matches against the New Zealand at home, and finally India Vs New Zealand for the WTC final.

After England’s victory at Chennai, I declared that this English team could rival the 2010-2012 team due to the good mix of youth, experience, & abroad victories. I guess that was a bit premature.

Was this India Vs England 2021 Test series the ‘greatest story of all time’ like the India Vs Australia? Nope.

Was it as controversial as the South Africa Vs Australia scandalous ball tampering series? Not really.

At best, this was just a Meh kind of series. Had its moments, but did not capture the imagination of the next generation. Sums it up for the World Test Championship.

What did you think of the India Vs England 2021 Test Series? Let us know!

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Copyright (2021: 3/11/2021)– @Nitesh Mathur, aka Nit-X – bcd@brokokencricketdreams.com

Image Courtesy: Axar Patel – Anand Anil, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Joe Root Vs Lasith Embuldeniya 2020 Series Review: Oops, I Meant England Vs Sri Lanka

Joe Root Vs Lasith Embuldeniya. That’s it, that’s the end of the series review….

Just Kidding, but boy it felt like Root vs Embuldeniya, didn’t it? At one point in the 2nd Test, Embuldeniya was hitting sixes and the golden arm of Joe Root was called upon to take his wicket and clean up the tail.

Yet, this short two-Test series had several other actors and memorable moments. The 2-0 score line may not have been close, but the contest was enthralling, nevertheless.

Broad’s initial burst, Bess’s uncanny wicket taking ability, Dan Lawrence’s dazzling debut, Niroshan Dickwella’s high-five face slap, Leach and Embuldeniya’s brilliance, Sibley and Thirimanne’s revival, Dickwella’s sledging, Bairstow and Buttler’s solidity, Mathews and Root’s centuries, Dickwella’s 92, and of course, Jimmy Anderson being well…Jimmy Anderson (in Asia).

Read till the end for my picks for the best moments, emerging players, lookout for the India Vs England series, and much more! COMMENT BELOW ON YOUR FAVORITE MOMENTS.

*Note: Underlined & Bolded links are videos. Underlined without bold are links to other articles.

Also Read: England Vs Sri Lanka Preview, SA Vs SL Review, South Africans Who Played For Other Countries

Results – England Vs Sri Lanka

Test Series: England Win 2 – 0

* Player of Match

  1. England won by 7 wickets *Joe Root
  2. England won by 6 wickets *Joe Root
Player of SeriesEngland
Joe Root
2-100s, best of 228
Sri Lanka
Most RunsJoe Root – 426 runs (4 innings)Angelo Mathews – 213 runs (4 innings)
Most WicketsDom Bess – 12 wickets (4 innings)Lasith Embuldeniya – 15 wickets (4 innings)
Test Series Stats

The Highlights

England

1. Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler: Critics Go Out The Window

Joe Root just does not like scoring 100s. Either 50s or daddy hundreds.

Do you all remember a few weeks ago in the India Vs Australia series, the commentators were discussing about the Big 3? That seems ages ago. In the preview article, I argued that

“Root is still a stellar player with an amazing record. The fact that England do not seem to need him as much as the other countries is a reflection of the strength of this English team, not the fall of a rising career. I hope he answers his critics with the bat.

186, 228, 2/0, and 7 catches later, Joe Root has answered his critics in some style. He has gone from being criticized for his poor conversion-rate to becoming England’s #4 all time tally, surpassing Boycott, Pietersen, and Gower on the way (Suddenly, predictions of catching Tendulkar’s Test runs have opened since he is only 30).

2. The Rest of the Batting

  • Crawley had a horrid tour with the bat (4 innings, 35 runs at 8.75), Sibley with 62 runs in his 4 (including a 56* in his last innings), and Sam Curran at 7 a spot too high (2 innings, 13 runs at 6.5).
  • Bairstow (4 innings, 139 at 46.33) and Buttler (3 innings, 131 at 65.5) fared much better, while Dan Lawrence had little to show after his sparkling 73 on debut.

Bairstow at 3 again? Yes he is a good player of spin, but does he warrant a position in the squad? Several questions were asked pre-series.

With the struggles of Crawley and Sibley, Bairstow did a good repair job with 47 (93), 35* (65), 28 (73), 29 (28). A makeshift English #3 batsmen on foreign soil, successfully denting the new ball without converting it…Where I have I heard this before? Bairstow’s tour was so…Denly-esque.

3. Youth & Senior Pros Combine to Bamboozle Sri Lanka

  • Stuart Broad (3/34 at 11.33) & James Anderson (6/46 at 7.66): No Sign of Aging
  • Dom Bess (12/255 at 21.25) & Jack Leach (10/355 at 35.5): Here To Stay?

Stuart Broad’s resurgence in the past year or so has been heartening, and Anderson’s fitness just becomes better with age. Anderson’s home swing advantage has always clouded his greatness and longevity, but his 6/40 at Galle in the 2nd Test was as good as any.

Dom Bess himself admitted his bowling may not have deserved a 5-fer in the 1st Test. Maybe once or twice, you can call it a fluke but 5/30, 3/100, 4/49 along with a handy 32 with the bat shows he is willing to learn & improve his skills. Jack Leach’s numbers probably do not reflect his 110.5 overs worth of effort, but both of them are here to stay.

It is pretty clear that England are going to rotate Broad/Anderson, pick Mark Wood (tad unlucky this time around) for pace, and play both spinners for the upcoming India series (given Moeen Ali does not come back for Sam Curran).

Sri Lanka

1. Thirimanne & Angelo Matthews

Lahiru Thirimanne was our contender for the Broken Dream in our preview. Just look at his stats:

  • Average of 22.68 after 36 Tests, 1 century after a decade on the international scene

He came back with a solid 111 and 43 in this series, and has ‘extended’ his place in the side. Will take a few more consistent performances to cement his place. I was also looking forward to a Chandimal-Thirimanne-Mathews solid middle order foundation. Chandimal had a Bairstow-like with a 52 and a couple of 20s, while Mathews was Sri Lanka’s most run-getter including a hard-fought 71 and 110.

  • 88 Tests, 6194 runs at 45.54, with 11 100s, best of 200* Mathews is slowly approaching Sri Lanka’s Legend Status.

2. Inconsistency Kills The Cat

  • Mathews – 213, Thirimanne 171, Dickwella 140, Chandimal 109, Kusal Perera 102
  • (SL Vs SA): 396 & 180, 157 & 211, (SL vs Eng): 381 & 126, 135 & 359

Notice a pattern yet? For England, Root scored a mammoth 426 with Bairstow-Buttler scoring 139 & 131 runs respectively. Sri Lanka had 5 scorers over 100 & Mathews/Thirimanne did convert, but there were just not enough match winning partnerships. Partnerships are the key to success. As we can see from the beginning of the South Africa tour, Sri Lanka have scored 350+ 3/8 times, but they have also collapsed 4/8 times.

Sri Lanka were not bad, but inconsistency in the other innings killed any chance they had.

Here is Kumar Sangakkara’s reflection of Sri Lanka’s batting meltdowns.

3. Embuldeniya

  • 4 innings, 119 overs, 15/415 at 27.66, best of 7/37, 1 5-fer, 1 10-fer

The reason why batting inconsistency hurt more this time around is because with Lasith Embuldeniya, Sri Lanka actually believed they could win.

In the first match, chasing a mere 74, England were down 14/3. Embuldeniya made it look like a landmine, but just there were just not enough runs on the board. He bowled tireless spells, opened the bowling, and even hit an aggressive 40 (37) in the 2nd Test to take the score from 78-8 to 126.

The name, the action, the wicket taking ability – have Sri Lanka finally found someone to carry the legacy of Muralitharan and Rangana Herath? Only time will tell.

Also Read: Charisma of Sam Curran, Lasith Malinga: The Slinga, Slayer, & Superstar

Marks Out of 10: The Mendis Factor

(Not really. Let’s have some fun!)

  • 4 – Ducks in a Row for Kusal Mendis (including SA series). His replacement, Ramesh Mendis, carried on the tradition and opened his account with a duck as well.
  • 6 – Wins In a row for England in Sri Lanka. Huge accomplishment – Kudos! It is never easy to tour Sri Lanka at home and consistent results bode well. Oh yes. And England won without the likes of Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes, and opener Rory Burns.
  • 8 – Short of a maiden hundred for Niroshan Dickwella. So close, yet so far.
  • 13 – Wickets Away from Anil Kumble’s 619 for the 3rd highest wicket-taker EVER for Jimmy Anderson. GOAT.

We like to spice things up with our own awards for the series. Here they are:

Sri LankaEngland
Emerging PlayerLasith EmbuldeniyaJoe Root’s Super Conversion Rate & Dan Lawrence
Surprise PackageEmbuldeniya (Batting/Bowling/Everything) & Dickwella’s sledgingDom Bess’s 5-for & wicket-taking ability
Broken Cricket DreamKusal Mendis Zak Crawley

Who would have been your Emerging Player? Surprise Player? Broken Cricket Dream? Let us know below WITH COMMENTS! Also please share and subscribe below!

Where Do They Go From Here?

Sri Lanka’s 2021 outlook looks filled. They will complete some of the WTC matches that were cancelled in 2020. They will host/tour Bangladesh, go to West Indies, & host Ireland for a Test match as well. Second part of the year will be focused on the T20I World Cup.

Busy Year for England this. 17 Test Matches on the cards (Maybe more if they qualify for World Test Championship Final). Next Up – India. 4 Tests, 5 ODIs, 3 T20Is from February 4th to March 27th (Add IPL, the Hundred, & World T20 World Cup in the mix as well). The series is key to the WTC finals. England currently at 4th but slowly inching up (Just 3% separates #4 England from #1 India).

Several questions on England vs India TV rights and squad selections as well. Bairstow, Curran, Wood rested for the first couple of Test matches, while Buttler flies home after the 1st one.

With India surprising expectations in Australia, will we see a similar triumph for England against favorites India?

Where do Sri Lankan cricket go from here? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Copyright (2021: 1/13/2021)– @Nitesh Mathur, aka Nit-X – bcd@brokokencricketdreams.com

Image Courtesy: Jimmy AndersonNAPARAZZI, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons