Trott has been going through a lean period. After an ordinary home series against South Africa, he is finding it difficult to get into the groove in India as well. With scores of 0, 17 and 0 in the first two Tests, he has failed to lend the solidity expected from someone with such an impressive Test record. In 36 Tests Trott has scored 2,693 runs at 48.08. But so far in India, he has failed to counter the spin challenge.
England’s big win in Mumbai has given them momentum and more importantly, it has put the hosts under real pressure. Their travails overseas notwithstanding, India have lost just one home series in the last 10 years and that too against the all-conquering Aussies. But the defeat in Mumbai has threatened India’s invincibility on home soil. England know that there is still a long way to go to register an improbable series win in India.
And to make that happen England need their No.3 to fire.
The batsman was making some technical adjustments while playing spin in the nets on Sunday. He crouched a little more in his stance and was looking to make an initial movement forward. The problem with him is about picking the length of the delivery and Trott was putting in extra hours to correct that.
For a team that prides in collective effort, this series so far has been about excellent individual performances. Alastair Cook has scored 357 runs including two centuries. Kevin Pietersen has made 205 runs with the 186 in the second Test being the highlight of his efforts.
Matt Prior too has been consistent, scoring 48, 91 and 21 in three innings he has played. Nick Compton has shown the stomach for a fight, staying long enough at the crease to ensure that India didn’t make early inroads. Also, in the second innings in Mumbai, he showed that he too can play a few shots.
Still it would be too premature to say that England have unlocked India’s spin secret. Half the side is yet to contribute, which is a real cause for concern. England so far have scored 1,013 runs in the series and Cook, Pietersen and Prior have made 722 of them. So, the trio has contributed 71.2 per cent of England’s runs. Others, except Compton to some extent, look at sea against the spinners on turning pitches.
Hard work ahead
“Kevin and Alastair played two great knocks at Wankhede. They were different in styles for sure. But I would still not say that England have mastered spin or gotten over their travails against the Indian spinners. It could have easily been different if the series score read 2-0. They were special knocks. But there is still a lot of hard work ahead of them,” Graham Thorpe had said after the second Test.
Thorpe, batting coach of the England Lions, is one of the rare England batsmen with an impressive record in the sub-continent and he feels that it would always be a struggle for England players to score consistently against the spinners in India. Jonny Bairstow agreed. “That we won in Mumbai doesn’t mean we have an ascendancy over the Indian spinners. It’s a massive challenge but we are preparing well for the last two Tests and are confident about carrying forward the momentum,” he said.
Bairstow was unlucky to be given out in Mumbai as Gautam Gambhir took a catch that came off the grill of his helmet.
Bairstow, however, didn’t look comfortable against spin and may lose his place as Ian Bell has joined the squad after attending to his wife, who gave birth to their first child. Bell too was crucified for playing a “silly” shot in the first innings of the first Test in Ahmedabad and is under pressure to perform in Kolkata.
For such a fluent player, Bell’s record in the sub-continent is poor. Earlier this year he had scored just 51 runs in three Tests as England lost 3-0 against Pakistan in UAE. Trott was the highest scorer for England in that series with just 181 runs, followed by Cook with 159. In Sri Lanka, Bell had made just 83 runs in three innings.
England managed to level the two-Test series, thanks to Pietersen’s belligerent 151 in the second Test in Colombo. He was the highest scorer for the team in that series with 226 runs. Cook had made 157 and Trott 193, but the others faltered.
After the series-levelling win in Mumbai the buzzword in the England camp at the moment is that nothing is impossible. Andy Flower, Graham Gooch and Cook are leaving no stone unturned to ensure that complacency doesn’t creep in. In fact, the visitors will ignore the spin threat at their peril. To win a series in India after 26 years, they might just need their entire unit to fire.