Category Archives: Cricket

Ashes 2013: Joe Root savours Ashes century at Lord’s

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Joe Root savoured the “special” feeling of scoring an Ashes hundred which he hopes will inspire an England victory.

Root, missed on eight on Friday, made 178 not out as England reached 333-5 for a huge lead of 566 on another one-sided day in the second Test at Lord’s.

“I knew how important hammering it home for as many as possible was,” he said.

“It was pretty special. As a kid growing up playing the Ashes is the pinnacle and to get a hundred and at Lord’s as well was a nice feeling.”

Taking Root at Lord’s

At 22 years and 202 days, Root becomes the youngest England batsman to make an Ashes century at Lord’s.

Former Cambridge University and Sussex player Kumar Shri Duleepsinhji was aged 25 years and 14 days when he made one in 1930.

The Yorkshireman added: “We are now in a good position to hopefully go on and set ourselves up for the win. I’ll definitely enjoy it more if we can get the win out of it.”

Root – watched by his parents in the stands and younger brother Billy as 12th man – became, at 22 years 202 days, the youngest Englishman to score an Ashes Test hundred at Lord’s.

And partnerships of 99 with nightwatchman Tim Bresnan and 153 with Ian Bell ground a hapless Australian side into the north London turf.

With no declaration signalled, he could yet push on to make his first Test double-century when play resumes on Sunday morning, having moved past 1,000 first-class runs in the summer when he passed 70 midway through the afternoon session.

He said: “You just want to score runs; it doesn’t really matter where. I just want to keep contributing and scoring runs for England. I’m sure mum and dad will be slightly worse for wear this evening.

“I have no idea about the declaration. That’s up to Cookie [captain Alastair Cook]. I just want to concentrate on playing my part.”

Test Match Special analysis

Image of Geoffrey Boycott Geoffrey Boycott Ex-England batsman & Test Match Special summariser

“Joe Root is a modern player who has been raised on Twenty20 cricket. The reverse sweep is part of his game but players like myself and Colin Cowdrey didn’t even know that shot existed. It never crossed our minds to play it.”

Australia fast bowler Peter Siddle said he expects England to bat on and declare some time during the morning session.

“Hopefully we can get a couple of early wickets, make them think about how long they want to bat and do as well as we can when we get a stick in our hands,” he said.

The tourists will then set out to save the game on a pitch offering considerable turn to assist off-spinner Graeme Swann, who took five wickets in Australia’s first-innings 128.

“We’ll have to work hard and bat a bit better against Swann than we did in the first innings,” added Siddle.

“The wicket didn’t play too bad today. Day five is going to be the biggest worry. The footholes will get bigger as the day goes on.”

Former Australia fast bowler Glenn McGrath admitted that the current side are now almost certain to go 2-0 down in the five-match series.

McGrath told the BBC’s Test Match Special: “It was a horror day for Australia, probably even worse than Friday.

“I think England will bat on to rub more salt into the wounds. Graeme Swann and James Anderson will be keen to bowl but England will want to keep their foot on Australia’s throat.”

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Decision revuew system: It’s time to develop better umpires for the technological age

TECHNOLOGY and umpiring dominated this Ashes series yet again after Ian Bell appeared to be caught during the third day of the second Test at Lord’s.

The low catch in the gully taken by Steve Smith looked clear watching from beyond the boundary and equally clear on replay.

Peter Siddle later claimed that Smith was unsure if he caught it so after a discussion umpires Marais Erasmus and Kumar Dharmasena consulted video umpire Tony Hill, who gave it not out.

It looked such an obvious catch it is difficult to know why the umpires on the field could not mate a decision.

And as far as usually dodgy video replays of low catches go, this seemed about as obvious as it could get.

Bell wasn’t saved by technology but umpire Hill’s inability to use it properly.

If that catch wasn’t out then no low catches ever will be out.

Depth of field problems can often distort a low catch on television and players know it. If they hang around there is every chance the video umpire will rule in their favour because the catch is inconclusive.

This was conclusive.

Not for the first time in this series the umpire in front of the small screen has seen things differently to most other people watching.

Much of the time it is not the technology which creates the problem but the arbitrary rules put in place around it and those who use it.

Umpires need to be taught properly how to quickly and efficiently use the system so that decision making is completely taken out of the hands of the players, bringing an end to cricket’s version of Russian roulette, the referral.

International Cricket Council chief executive Dave Richardson said trials were taking place during this series with upgraded technology, which would allow video umpires to make quicker decisions, but it was at an early stage.

Richardson also welcomed debate about the possibility of using non-neutral umpires for some series.

With eight of the 12 umpires on the elite panel from Australia or England, only Aleem Dar, Hill, Dharmasena and Erasmus are available to umpire the 10 consecutive Ashes Tests across the next six months.

Stuart Broad’s decision to stay at Trent Bridge when an obvious edge ended up with Michael Clarke at first slip was worse than Bell yesterday because everyone knew that Broad hit the ball and Michael Clarke caught it, except Dar.

Because Australia had wasted both reviews the umpire decision review system which was brought in to get rid of the howler allowed the howler and Broad to stay.

Under the letter of the law players are quite entitled to stand their ground and wait for the umpires decision but there comes a time when they are so obviously out they should go.

All of this is a poor reflection on the umpiring too.

Decisions should be a lot better than they have in this series by on field and video umpires.

A greater investment needs to be made in producing and developing better umpires for the technological age.

Live text and radio commentary as England strike either side of lunch to check Australia’s reply to 361 at Lord’s.

Ashes 2013: Ian Bell says England well placed despite late wickets

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England centurion Ian Bell insists his side are in a good position despite three late wickets on the first day of the second Test.

Bell, who scored a brilliant 109 to replicate his match-winning knock in the first Test, was one of three victims for the part-time leg-spin of Steve Smith as England slumped from 271-4 to 289-7 at stumps.

“If the dry conditions stay we know we have quality bowlers who can bowl reverse swing and then later on spin will come into it,” said Bell.

“We’ll see as the game goes on what a good first-innings score is. It was disappointing to lose the three wickets at the end but not a bad day for us overall.”

England began badly in front of a full house at headquarters, the recalled Ryan Harris removing Joe Root for six and Kevin Pietersen for two as the hosts slipped to 28-3 after winning the toss.

But Bell’s superb innings, first in partnership with Jonathan Trott (58) and then in a fifth-wicket stand of 144 with Jonny Bairstow, dragged England back into contention on a sun-baked afternoon.

After his century at Trent Bridge and 115 in the fifth Test at Sydney in 2010-11, Bell joins Jack Hobbs, Walter Hammond and Chris Broad as the only Englishmen to score Ashes centuries in three successive matches.

He said: “It is absolutely incredible. It is a real honour to be with those kinds of names, and playing at Lord’s as well it is a special place. When you do well here it is really special.

“Every time I go out I just want to go out and fight. An innings at a time is important for us as a team and for me as an individual.

“It is what I want to do as much as I can. I have done it a little bit over the last couple of years now, and it is nice to come out and do it again.

“Credit has got to go to Australia. Harris coming back into the team bowled really well, and Jonathan Trott and myself had to leave really well.

“You know Australia are just going to keep coming at you and you’ve never got enough.

“It was another great day of Test cricket. Coming from Trent Bridge, we had an amazing match there and it looks like we’ve got another one here at Lord’s.”

Australia paid dearly for Peter Siddle’s no-ball when he bowled Bairstow for 21, and fellow paceman Harris believes it could prove to be an expensive mistake.

“There’s no excuse for it. The line is there for a reason,” said Harris.

“It’s not acceptable. It cost us a lot of runs and potentially it could cost the Ashes.

“(Coach) Darren (Lehmann) wasn’t very happy. You just can’t afford to (have to) take 11 wickets, or 12 wickets. It’s as simple as that.

“It was probably the only one he bowled, but funny how it happened to be a wicket. That’s how the game works.”

Ashes 2013: Ian Bell hits century before England falter at Lord’s

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Steve Smith took three late wickets to swing the momentum towards Australia despite a third consecutive Ashes hundred from England batsman Ian Bell on the opening day of the second Test.

Leg-spinner Smith, who did not bowl in Australia’s 14-run defeat at Trent Bridge last week, removed Bell, Jonny Bairstow and Matt Prior as England slipped from 271-4 to 289-7 by the close at Lord’s.

England, who won the toss, had fallen to 28-3 in the first hour of play but were hauled out of trouble by Bell’s superb 109 and half centuries from Jonathan Trott and Bairstow.

Smith’s dramatic late intervention, however, ensured Australia will be the more satisfied of the teams as they look to level the five-match series.

England’s predicament could have been worse had Bairstow not enjoyed a significant stroke of luck midway through the afternoon session.

The Yorkshire batsman was bowled by Peter Siddle for 21 but reprieved when television replays revealed a no-ball by the narrowest of margins.

He went on to score a further 46 in a fifth-wicket partnership of 144 with Bell that looked to have put England in control.

Other than a run-out chance, Bell had not offered a chance as he followed up his crucial innings in Nottingham with another century at a time of need for his team.

At Trent Bridge, a sluggish pitch forced the Warwickshire man to play late and score a large proportion of his runs behind square on the off side, but on a quicker Lord’s track he was on the front foot much more often, driving through the covers and punishing anything too full as he passed 1,000 Test runs at the home of cricket.

The arrival of Smith looked unlikely to trouble Bell as he lashed a full toss through mid-on for his 16th four. The next ball, however, gripped and turned before taking the edge of Bell’s bat on the way through to Michael Clarke at slip.

Three and easy

Ian Bell is only the fourth Englishman to score centuries in three consecutive Ashes Tests – at Sydney in 2011, at Trent Bridge last week and this innings at Lord’s.

Jack Hobbs achieved the feat twice – in 1911-12 and 1924-25 – while Wally Hammond did so in 1928-29 and Chris Broad in 1986-87.

Sensing an opportunity, Clarke delayed taking the second new ball to give Smith another over, and the decision paid off in style as Bairstow drove a low full toss back to the bowler.

Prior was deceived by a ball that skidded through a bit quicker, edging an attempted cut to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin.

Tim Bresnan, picked ahead of Steven Finn, was seven not out at the close, with James Anderson – a nightwatchman for Stuart Broad – on four.

The rapid fall of three wickets mirrored the start of the day when England, following a presentation of both teams to Her Majesty the Queen, lost Alastair Cook, Joe Root and Kevin Pietersen in the space of 11 balls.

Cook, who chose to bat first on a scorching day, was drawn across his stumps and trapped lbw by a Shane Watson inswinger, justifying Clarke’s decision to throw the ball to the all-rounder for the fifth over of the day.

In the next over, Root was lbw to the recalled Ryan Harris, and failed with a review when replays suggested the ball struck his pad marginally before bat.

Four balls later, Kevin Pietersen got a thin edge to a ball that shaped away from him and England were listing badly on 28-3.

The Ashes

1st Test: England won by 14 runs, Trent Bridge

2nd Test: 18-22 July, Lord’s

3rd Test: 1-5 August, Old Trafford

4th Test: 9-13 August Chester-le-Street

5th Test: 21-25 August, The Oval

With Harris on a high and the new ball moving around in the air, a repeat of the frenetic opening day at Trent Bridge – when 14 wickets fell – looked on the cards, but Trott and Bell saw off the threat to take England through to lunch.

As the Australia bowling became more ragged after the interval, England plundered eight fours in seven overs.

Trott was particularly fluent, bringing up his fifty in 77 balls, only for his commitment to attack to prove his undoing.

A delivery from Harris sat up on leg stump and asked to be hit but Trott flicked off his hips and placed a simple catch in the hands of Usman Khawaja at deep square leg.

England needed a partnership and were granted their wish by Bell and Bairstow, who scored his fourth Test half century, three of which have come at Lord’s.

With Bell scoring heavily off a struggling James Pattinson, they took England to within sight of the close of play, only for Clarke’s gamble in throwing the ball to Smith to deliver a telling twist.

Yohan Blake out of World Championships with injury

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Reigning world 100m champion Yohan Blake has withdrawn from August’s World Athletics Championships in Moscow with a hamstring injury.

The 23-year-old Jamaican pulled out of his country’s national championships last month having been troubled by the injury since April.

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“The injury has prevented Yohan from attaining the necessary fitness levels to compete”

Cubie Seegobin Blake’s manager

Blake won the 2011 title in Daegu, when compatriot Usain Bolt false-started.

Compatriot Asafa Powell and American Tyson Gay have withdrawn from the event in Moscow after positive dope tests.

Gay’s A sample from an out-of-competition test in May was positive, while Powell tested positive for a banned stimulant at the Jamaican Championships, which took place on 20-23 June. Both athletes are awaiting the results of their B samples.

As defending champion Blake was handed an automatic place in the 100m at this year’s World Championships, but he would not have run the 200m in Moscow after pulling out of the Jamaican trials and therefore failing to qualify.

Blake has not run a competitive 100m this year and laboured to a time of 20.72 seconds over 200m in Jamaica on 8 June.

“This decision was made after continual assessment and re-evaluations since his withdrawal from the Jamaican Senior Championships,” said Blake’s manager Cubie Seegobin.

Blake’s major honours

  • Olympic gold medals: 1 (London 2012 – 4x100m relay)
  • Olympic silver medals: 2 (London 2012 – 100m and 200m)
  • World Championship titles: 2 (Daegu 2011 – 100m and 4x100m relay)

“Yohan has made vast improvement, although the injury sustained in April of this year has prevented him from attaining the necessary fitness levels that we have grown accustomed to seeing in his competition performances.”

Gay recorded the fastest time in the world this year when he ran 9.75 seconds in Iowa in June.

Jamaica’s Nesta Carter recorded the quickest time of the year of the athletes still set to run in the World Championship 100m when he clocked 9.87 in Madrid on 13 July.

Twice-banned American Justin Gatlin is next fastest with 9.89, while Britain’s Jason Dasaolu set a personal best of 9.91 with a stunning performance at the British Championships last Saturday.

Olympic champion and world record holder Bolt booked his place in Moscow when he won the Jamaican trials in 9.94 seconds – his fastest time this year.

Live text and radio commentary as England lose three wickets in 11 balls during a sensational start to the second Test at Lord’s.

Live text and radio commentary as England lose three wickets in 11 balls during a sensational start to the second Test at Lord’s.

England name unchanged squad

England have named an unchanged 13-man squad for the second Ashes Test with Australia that begins at Lord’s on Thursday.

Alastair Cook’s team won a nerve-jangling first Test by 14 runs, with James Anderson proving to be the hero with 10 wickets in the match.

England’s other bowling options were short of their best at Trent Bridge, particularly Steven Finn who was targeted by Australia’s batsmen. Cook and coach Andy Flower are likely to ponder whether to stick with Finn or bring in either Tim Bresnan or Graham Onions.

“It was a fantastic start to the Investec Test series, with both sides showing a huge amount of skill and determination,” national selector Geoff Miller said.

“I would like to congratulate England on showing a great deal of composure to win by 14 runs.

“I have no doubt that the rest of the series will be equally compelling.”

Commenting on the Lord’s squad, Miller said: “We have selected the same squad for the Lord’s Test, because this continues to provide options for Alastair Cook and Andy Flower.”

Finn had a poor Test, taking match figures of 2 for 117 in 25 overs; the economy rate a particular concern on a surface where scoring became increasingly difficult as the match progressed.

It was a tight call between him and Bresnan in the first place before the selectors opted to retain faith in Finn who had been in the side throughout the five Tests against New Zealand. However, if Alastair Cook does not feel able to entrust Finn with a greater number of overs a change will be required so that the workload can be more evenly spread among England’s quicks with Bresnan the likeliest man to replace him.

Anderson had a gruelling five days at Trent Bridge, culminating in his marathon 13-over spell on the final day, and was forced to leave the field during Australia’s last-wicket stand. He returned to claim the matchwinning wicket after lunch and the official line was that Anderson only suffered cramp, but with just three days between games it will be a major test of his renowned fitness.

There remain concerns, too, over Stuart Broad who struggled with his right shoulder during the first half of the Trent Bridge Test after taking a blow from James Pattinson while batting although his performances improved markedly as the match wore on.

In hindsight, with the way the Trent Bridge surface developed, England may have preferred Bresnan’s skills to Finn. Not only can Bresnan bowl lengthy, tight spells but he is also another good exponent of reverse swing.

Bresnan’s Test record at Lord’s is unflattering with five wickets at 66 in three appearances, while Finn has impressive numbers on his homeground – 29 wickets at 20.65 from five Tests. The final decision could yet come down to the surface; if the hot weather means another baked, cracked pitch there would be further weight behind a recall for Bresnan whereas if it appears like it may carry through with good pace, there could be a temptation to retain Finn.

Onions remains the outside bet to come into the side although he does bowl very well to left handers. The initial expectation was that Graeme Swann would be the major threat to Australia’s left handers, but he was below his best at Trent Bridge and was played with relative ease by the likes of Ashton Agar and Pattinson.

England squad: AN Cook (capt), JE Root, IJL Trott, KP Pietersen, IR Bell, JM Bairstow, MJ Prior (wkt), TT Bresnan, SCJ Broad, GP Swann, JM Anderson, G Onions, ST Finn.

Trent Bridge Five-fer: Day five

ImageHaddin and Anderson: Day five’s star performers

1. Photo finish
Of course it finished like that. There could be no more fitting conclusion to this extraordinary Test match than a DRS decision to hand one side a narrow victory after yet another outrageous twist in fortunes, another lurch on the rollercoaster, another swing of the pendulum.

After four days, England appeared to be in control. When James Anderson removed Ashton Agar, Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle in quick succession the game appeared to be up.

But no. This Test that kept on giving had two more treats in store yet.

First, a remarkable 10th-wicket stand between Brad Haddin – who can rarely have batted better – and James Pattinson, taking on the role of Batting At Number 11 But Not Really A Number 11 after Agar’s promotion.

Then, the best of DRS to settle the game. After Haddin had initially been given not out, replays and Hot Spot (and later the non-DRS snicko) confirmed a thin edge through to Matt Prior. The decision was overturned, and England celebrated.

2. King of the swingers
Jimmy Anderson, a master of his art, took all four wickets to fall today – the first three of them in an epic 13-over, 110-minute spell at the start of the day – to collect his second five-wicket haul of the game, 10 wickets for the match and victory for England.

He also took his Test wicket tally to 317 and, for the first time in two months short of 10 years, his Test bowling average is on the right side of 30.

His greatness has been beyond question for some time now. Bald statistics are not and never can be a true judge of a player’s talent or worth. That said, it’s undeniably satisfying to see Anderson’s upward curve finally take his overall stats where they belong. We are simple creatures.

Anderson was, again, magnificent today. Not just in his skill in hooping both old ball and new this way and that, but his heart to continue his lung and limb-busting efforts long past the point others may have called a halt.

Let us not become bogged down in Steyn v Anderson debates; let us enjoy a pair of master craftsmen at work.

3. Brad: not bad
The clichés will be scant consolation, but all apply today. Shame there had to be a loser. Didn’t deserve to be on the losing side.

Brad Haddin played a superb hand for his side and came within a Hot Spot smudge of perhaps sealing one of the all-time great Australia victories.

As with Anderson, there was so much more to enjoy here than simply the skill. Haddin was ice-cool in the heat of battle, resisting when times were hard and always sensing the moment to attack.

His brutal counter-attack when the fragile Steve Finn came on to bowl was as clinical example of devising and then executing a gameplan as you could wish to see.

Credit also to Australia for having the guts to bring back a cricketer whose sheer flinty-eyed gritty Australianness added so much to this game.

4. Scripts
Back to clichés, and the oft-pondered identity of scriptwriters for sports stars or sporting events. This match, of course, sits firmly in the real life better than a script ever could be category.

If it did have a scriptwriter, though, they’re a despicable plagiarist, cherry-picking highlights from Edgbaston 05, Edgbaston 12, Brisbane 06 and Lord’s 09 to produce a heady concoction even before the various umpiring controversies were added to the mix.

5. To Lord’s
So, what now? When the dust settles, the facts are these: England are 1-0 up with four to play.

For the neutral, it’s hard to shake the notion that an Australia victory would’ve been a better result here, for the sake of the series. However much pride Australia take, however high their heads may be held, this will be a tough defeat to swallow.

They must now regroup for Lord’s on Thursday. Winning the toss and batting first against an attack – Anderson especially – that has expended such energy in sapping conditions here would be a good start.

They must consider changes to the batting line-up, though. Ed Cowan struggled terribly in the pivotal number-three position and looks vulnerable to both Usman Khawaja. Across both innings, Australia’s first nine wickets produced just 348/18, while the 10 wicket accrued 228/2. That, clearly, is unsustainable.

For England, we still await conclusive evidence of the wisdom or otherwise of both Joe Root at two and Jonny Bairstow at six, but Steven Finn will be lucky to be inside the XI at his home ground next week.

He clearly does not enjoy the confidence of his captain, and his two overs today handed an initiative to Australia that almost proved decisive. While Anderson bowled himself into the ground, Finn grazed at long-leg.

Graham Onions or, more likely, Tim Bresnan will surely come in at HQ.

England lean on Anderson again

England erupt as victory is confirmed, England v Australia, 1st Investec Test, Trent Bridge, 5th day, July 14, 2013

James Anderson lead England to a memorable victory but the constant need to turn to him is a worry © PA Photos
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It was entirely fitting that James Anderson took the match-winning wicket at Trent Bridge. Never has England’s reliance on him been so painfully exposed. Over recent months, England have leant on him like an elderly person might a zimmer frame, or like an alcoholic in search of a drink.

Perhaps that is the better simile, for England’s over-reliance upon Anderson is not healthy. The burden upon him, not just in Test cricket, but in ODIs as well, has become immense. While his colleagues lose form, fitness and confidence, Anderson has been consistently excellent for several years, leading his captain to coax just one more over, one more spell from him time after time. England go to the well so often that fears are growing it may run dry.

It looked for a while on the last day as if England had reached that moment. After an immense opening spell of 13 overs that took his tally for game above 50 in unusual heat, Anderson was forced off the pitch with what the England camp insist – an insistence perhaps tinged with hope – was an attack of cramp.

At that stage he might have presumed his work was done. Australia were 80 runs from their target when the ninth wicket fell; his colleagues should have been able to take it from there.

Instead, Anderson was obliged to take on plenty of fluids at the lunch break and found himself forced into service once more after it became painfully obvious that England had no replacement capable of sustaining his match-clinching burst. It took him only two overs to finish the game off and clinch not just his second five-wicket haul of the match but the second ten-wicket haul of his career. His statistics, dented by premature exposure to international cricket, may never show it but his bowling over the last three years has touched a level of greatness to which very few England bowlers have ventured.

Anderson was magnificent in this game. It is not just his skill, but his fitness and reliability that render him such a valuable player. MS Dhoni rated him the difference between the sides after England’s Test series victory in India and it was no exaggeration. It is the same in this series: if Anderson were injured, this England attack would hold little fear for Australia.

This surface offered him little. There was just a little conventional swing and seam and minimal pace or bounce. Conditions were much more akin to Ahmedabad or Kolkata than to stereotypical English pitches. But Anderson, with his nagging control and ability to reverse-swing the ball into and away from the batsmen from a well-disguised action, rose above such obstacles to remain a potent force. It was a performance of which Zaheer Khan or Mohammad Asif would have been proud.

He deserved better support, though. While Stuart Broad may be worryingly fragile, he had an increasingly impressive Test, but a couple of other England players would have slipped away from Trent Bridge amid the celebrations, feeling low as result of their personal contributions.

Certainly Steven Finn, cutting a diffident figure for a man capable of such brutish spells, endured a horrible final day. Not only did he miss a tough chance at deep-backward square leg to reprieve Brad Haddin on 62, but he failed to sustain the pressure created by Anderson when he relieved him in the attack. The contrast was unflattering: while Anderson delivered three wicket maidens in the session and conceded only 29 runs in a 13-over spell, Finn was plundered for 15 in his first over and five in his second. He was then removed from the attack and is far from certain to play at Lord’s.

James Anderson’s post-match press conference

Finn is too young and full of potential to be written off but there is a concern about his lack of progress. He was dropped after the Perth Test in 2010 for conceding four an over but conceded 4.68 an over here. While he bowled one decent spell on the first day and another on the fourth, his lack of control has routinely released the pressure on the opposition in recent months. Again, England insist he is fully fit but the suspicion remains that the shin soreness that troubled him in earlier in the summer has robbed him of some confidence and rhythm.

Had England lost this game, it might have been remembered as one of the lowest moments of Graeme Swann’s career, too. He has endured disappointing games before – Cardiff and Edgbaston in 2009 spring to mind, as does Brisbane in 2010 and The Oval 2012 – but rarely when so much has been expected of him in conditions so apparently favourable. England had originally planned not to take the new ball on the final day but so unthreatening was Swann they had to, with Alastair Cook admitting that “it wasn’t doing a lot for Swanny, so we changed tactics”.

Perhaps expectations were unrealistically high. With England bowling last on such a dry pitch and Swann playing on his home ground, events seemed to have been set-up for Swann to strike the crucial blows. But the pitch turned less than had been anticipated and Swann, who has never taken a five-wicket haul in a first-class game on the ground and had not taken a Test wicket here until 2012, was rarely threatening.

He did, however, produce one good spell, late on the penultimate day, that perhaps suggested there was enough in the pitch to help had he bowled with the bite and turn that we have come to expect.

The miles on the clock may be starting to show. Swann has suffered from back and calf injuries in the last few weeks and underwent a second operation on his right elbow earlier this year. While the sluggish pace of the pitch did little for him, that can be no excuse for the surfeit of full tosses he delivered.

That is more of a worry than Finn’s loss of form. Swann’s prowess had been considered a key factor in the gap between the sides before this series and a succession of dry pitches are anticipated to aid his spin. If he is struggling for form or fitness, England will become even more reliant on Anderson. Monty Panesar remains the second-best spinner in England but has not been at his best in recent months – he was dropped from the Sussex side a few weeks ago – while James Tredwell, in favour with the selectors but out of form with the ball, has an eye-watering first-class bowling average of 428 this season.

It was somehow typical that Ian Bell’s immense contribution to this result was overshadowed by the performances of others. He will be consoled, however, in the knowledge that he played the innings that defined this match and, to this point, the most mature and important innings of his career. After a modest 18 months, his confidence and form is as good as it ever has been and he should have proved to himself as much as anyone that he can produce such performances regularly.

Cook’s contribution could easily be overlooked on the final day, too. When he first moved into the slip cordon, he was something approaching a liability. Only a year ago, he put down several chances against South Africa that proved hugely costly for England. But, just as he worked on his range of strokes and his issues outside off stump, Cook worked on his weakness until he made it a strength.

Here, as the sole slip fielder and standing closer to the bat than normal to account for the lack of carry from the sluggish pitch, he held on to a couple of sharp chance, the first off Ashton Agar and the second off Peter Siddle. He did provide a reminder that you have never mastered this game by also putting down a relatively easy chance offered by Siddle but Cook, like his star fast bowler, has proved that with hard work and self belief, continual improvement is possible and can lift players to unprecedented heights. Neither Cook or Anderson would claim to be the most talented cricketers their country has produced, but they may well end their careers as the highest run-scorer and wicket-taker in England Test history.