England need a better spin alternative to avoid second Test loss
India wrapped up a nine-wicket win over England on the final day of the first Test leaving them in a strong position to win the four-match series.
The hosts are pretty much untouchable in the series market at 1/8, while the Three Lions are huge 16/1 long shots to overturn the 1-0 deficit and win, with the draw seemingly their best hope at 7/1.
Alastair Cook’s heroic 176 second innings score, alongside his sixth-wicket stand of 157 with Matt Prior were the only positives England could take from their Ahmedabad massacring, in which they were smashed around the park by the smouldering Cheteshwar Pujara, who scored 247 unbeaten runs over two innings.
He remains excellent value to be the top Indian runscorer in the series at 9/2.
The whole England batting order was at the mercy of Pragyan Ojha who finished with match figures of 9-165, twice castling Kevin Pietersen whose return to the international scene was the dampest of damp squibs.
With no England quick claiming a single scalp until the Indian tail was exposed, there was too much onus on Graeme Swann to get the job done as the only front-line spinner in the side.
India’s attack was lead by Ojha and Ravi Ashwin – two top international slower bowlers – while Samit Patel was the tourists only real alternative to Swann. He is distinctly lacking in comparison to these two and should be used on a part-time basis at Test level, as his match figures of 1-120 suggest.
His inclusion was warranted on the basis of some strong batting performances in the warm-up matches yet, with a combined score of 10 when it came to the crunch, his place has to be in jeopardy as the tour moves on the Mumbai.
A genuine threat with the ball needs to come in if England are to take 20 wickets in the second Test and the biggest one of those waiting in the wings is Monty Panesar.
Granted, he can’t bat and his fielding isn’t up to much either, meaning the resilience displayed out in the middle throughout the second innings will be required from the outset when the music starts again.
Working in tandem with Swann, Panesar gives Andy Flower’s side a much better chance of knocking the Indians over without the game being taken away from them by a giant Indian score.
As to who is sacrificed for Panesar’s inclusion, Flower must weigh up who is stronger at the crease between Patel and Tim Bresnan.
The Yorkshire all-rounder’s 39 runs over two innings is a decent contribution for someone batting at number nine but, with the ball in-hand, he was even more ineffectual than the man he will be competing with for a spot in the team for the second Test. It’s hard for pacemen to get any change out of the slow pitches of the sub-continent and this could be a reprieve for Patel.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date