India have traditionally got the better of most opponents at home courtesy their spinners, who have used the helpful conditions at home to great advantage. Following the first Test at Motera, when Ravichandran Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha combined to rattle the England batsmen, there was a sense of deja vu surrounding the series. However, as things eventually panned out, it were the English spinners who got the better of India’s illustrious batsman, even as Ojha and Ashwin fared quite poorly in comparison. In a sense, England beat India at their own game to claim their first Test series win in India since 1984/85.
The series took a significant turn, literally, when England decided to include Panesar in the XI instead of Tim Bresnan for the Mumbai Test. Considering India’s reputation as great players of spin, it wasn’t supposed to make much of a difference even on a spinning pitch. It did though and affected India so badly that they ended up losing the series. At Mumbai, Panesar and Graeme Swann spun a mesmerising web around the unsuspecting Indian batsman, snaring 19 of the two wickets to fall in the series. Most of these wickets were well-earned by the English spinners through sheer guile even though it must be said India’s batsmen got overconfident.
Panesar and Swann bowled better than the Ashwin-Ojha combination at Kolkata as well even though the latter managed to grab 10 wickets in the game. Panesar picked up a four-wicket haul in the first innings, which included the key scalps of Gambhir and Pujara while Swann sent back Sehwag and Tendulkar in the second essay. The important aspect here is that while a number of these big names got starts, the English spinners did not allow them to build a big score.
In contrast, even though Ashwin and Ojha were among the wickets, they came at a cost, and a very high one at that. Ashwin gave away 183 runs for his three wickets while the left-arm spinner spent 142 runs for his four scalps. Such figures don’’t win you matches, which is exactly what happened to India in the series. Following the success India’s latest spin duo tasted against West Indies and New Zealand, there were plenty of hopes from them especially considering the troubles England faced in the UAE against Pakistan’s quality spinners. The better-prepared Englishmen, however, exposed India’s weaknesses in the spin department, proving Ashwin and Ojha are still raw and have a long way to go.
Another area when England out-tricked India was in the reverse swinging department. James Anderson’s role in series was supposed to give good support to the spinners in conditions where the ball turns. Instead, he ended up being a match-winner for England, getting crucial wickets with the old ball. Anderson gave credit to India’s Zaheer Khan, from whom he picked up the art. Ironically, Khan couldn’t do the same owing to fitness issues and lack of form. In short, England, outsmarted India in all departments of the game, and deservedly won.
--By A Cricket Analyst