Wednesday, 10 August 2011

England v India 3rd Test Preview: Broad and Bresnan's rise gives headaches all round

At the beginning of the week both teams had selection headaches but of very different sorts. England's was strictly a 'two paracetamol' job, and akin to deciding whether the next bottle should be Dom Perignon or Krug. India on the other hand had a full blown 'in bed with the lights out' migraine. Their wine list currently looks blanker than the edges of VVS Laxman's bat and and they appear entirely out of stock in three sections: 'leading fast bowler' 'top class wicket-keeper/batsman' and 'high class spinner'. As Wednesday arrives, England's selectors have unburdened themselves of even this minor discomfort (via the genuine discomfort felt in Chris Tremlett's back) whilst India's steadfastly remains.

It is premature to write off the Indians at this stage and yet there is nothing to suggest a resurgence, certainly nothing that occurred during their two day match at Northampton. The return of Virender Sehwag may raise their spirits but it is asking a lot, even of Wisden's Leading Cricketer in the World in 2008 and 2009, to produce his best after so little practice and against such a confident and in-form England attack.

The roles played by Bresnan and Broad in the previous game were particularly interesting. Six months ago, Broad was portrayed as 'the enforcer', pitching short of a length, literally and figuratively getting in the batsman's face at every opportunity. Bresnan by contrast was considered to be something of a classic English seamer and one who 'hit the deck hard'. Whilst each retains an element of these characteristics, neither truly fit these descriptions. At Trent Bridge, the vast majority of Broad's wickets came from full length swinging deliveries with the bouncer used as an occasional surprise variation, whilst in the second innings India had no answer to Bresnan's fierce and well directed short pitched deliveries. The England team may regard Broad as having the best bouncer in world cricket but the Yorkshireman's, with its wider angle of delivery, brought greater reward.

Broad's bowling has undergone a true revolution for which both himself and David Saker must take great credit. He is unrecognisable from the Sri Lankan series in style and effectiveness. It seems impossible imagine him going back to his headstrong former ways. Bresnan's game by contrast seems merely have evolved. He is now a significant threat, capable of causing batsman difficulties on any surface. Overall, taking into account their batting, you now have two serious Test cricketers.

Today, it is not only the Indian batsman who will be casting the two a nervous glance. With Jimmy Anderson and Graeme Swann undroppable and England seemingly committed to a four man attack outside the sub-continent, Chris Tremlett, Steven Finn, Graham Onions et al should be looking on anxiously. These two are here to stay.

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