How quickly things can change. England’s 227 run win in the First Test v India feels like a lifetime ago, but it has only been a month since positivity swept through the camp. From that point, when only a second series win in India since 1985 was on the cards, Joe Root’s side have been nothing short of woeful with the bat.
They only scored above 200 in one of the six innings since that opening Test, averaging a measly total of 138.5 every time they went into bat. Only Ben Stokes in those six innings scored more than 50 runs, yet his top score of 55 shows just how short England came up this series.
The pitches, especially in the chaotic two day third Test, were certainly not ideal for batting and favoured the spinners, yet India coped with the conditions far better than the visitors. The weather, touching 40C at times certainly made it unpleasant, but if England are to have a successful 2021, they need to learn from the embarrassing performances they have put in in recent weeks.
Captain Joe Root echoes these thoughts and is well aware of the failings of his side. "The guys have to embrace what has happened, understand it and be realistic," he admitted. "We would be stupid to come away from this trip and say 'it was India, it was extreme conditions, it is impossible to bat'. That is the wrong attitude. The most important thing is to know there are things we can get better at. Yes, they have world-class spinners, but we can be better."
England’s misery with the bat was compounded with another poor display in the final Test, which saw them lose by an innings and 25 runs. Needing to score just 160 to force their hosts to bat again, they were unable to form any sort of partnerships in the middle with the top order out to the tune of just 40 runs.
Only Dan Lawrence provided any sort of resistance to the Indian attack, hitting his first Test 50 before falling to Ravichandran Ashwin who took five wickets, but seven of the England team scored five or fewer runs as they withered under the hot sun. With Axar Patel taking the other five wickets, England lost all ten wickets to spin for the third consecutive time in the series. For India, it was spin to win. Root’s side just couldn’t come up with the answers.
England face a busy March, taking India on across five T20 internationals, before ending their tour with three One Day Internationals, with the final one scheduled for the 28th March. 2021 is set to be a pivotal year for English cricket, with Root’s side scheduled to play 16 or 17 Test matches, while Eoin Morgan is aiming to lead his side to T20 World Cup glory in October, with that tournament also being held in India.
England must take this series as a lesson learnt and an opportunity missed. With the Ashes coming up at the end of this year, and England will travel down under to attempt to win back the urn. Performances with the bat will have to improve dramatically if they are to have any hope of success.