What a difference a few weeks can make; after a humiliating loss at Lords to tourists India and a deeply disappointing draw, where England somehow managed to snatch a draw from the jaws of victory, the pressure was rising on Cook and his company of under performers.
Now there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel in what has been a bleak period for English cricket; three resounding victories at Old Trafford, Southampton and an even more blitzing victory this weekend in the final test at the Oval saw the Series end 3-1.
England were in rampant form as they blew India away within three days at the Oval in the fifth test, emphatically winning by an innings and 224 runs. The demoralised tourists were skittled out for a derisory 94 within 29.2 overs, the first time they have been dismissed for less than 100 since 2008.
Cook told the BBC…
“It was an amazing turnaround from Lords,”
“India did crumble right at the end, but that was due to relentless pressure from us.”
James Anderson, playing arguably the best three tests of his career as he closes in on Sir Ian Botham’s test wicket record, and Stuart Broad made use of the new ball to tear through the India top-order. Chris Jordan knocked over the tailenders with ease, taking four of the last five wickets remaining.
England set the tone for the day with a riotous hour with the bat, by plundering the tourists for 101 runs within 11 overs and posted an intimidating 486 in replying to India’s 148. A familiar face to Leeds, Yorkshire’s Joe Root secured his fifth test hundred –third of this summer- on his way to a well deserved unbeaten 149. Jordan also hit a quick 20, while Broad did not let his broken nose affect him; as he bravely cut and pulled short balls in a blitzing 37 off 21 balls.
England ‘s ruthless streak with the bat on Saturday evening and Sunday morning lumbered India with the indomitable challenge of scoring 338 just to make the hosts bat again.
By the time rain forced an early lunch India had lost both their openers cheaply and already staring down the barrel of defeat. Murali Vijay was trapped by Anderson LBW for 2 and Gautam Gambhir was run out for the 3 by excellent fielding from Chris Woakes to score a direct hit as the batsman turned back for two.
After the rain delay, Anderson continued his sumptuous form and an in-swinger had Chesteshwar Pujara caught behind, Ajinkya Rahane was brilliantly caught by Gary Ballance at slip off Broad and skipper MS Dhoni glanced Woakes to short leg. Anderson was left just three wickets short of Botham’s record 383 England Test wickets.
Jordan was then given the ball and took three wickets in two overs; Virat Kohli’s dismal series continued as he inside edged to Alastair Cook for 20 with Ashwin and Kumar also falling to the same fate.
Varun Aaron was run out attempting a second run and Ishant Sharma fell soon after as he fended a Jordan short ball up in the air for Moeen Ali to take a simple catch at silly point.
This third successive victory will no doubt placate the calls for Cook to resign his captaincy for now at least and injects some confidence in an England side who had previously suffered a 10 match winless streak until their victory in the third test at Southampton.
Alastair Cook put his run and captaincy troubles behind him with a well engineered 79 and has demonstrated his mental toughness to push on from the flak he received around the Lords defeat.
Yorkshiremen Ballance and Root have really staked their claims in the side looking ahead to the West Indies tour next spring. Ballance stole the show at the Oval, he has the composure at the wicket that was the staple of his predecessor Jonathan Trott and he is an excellent fielder, shown by his stunning one-handed catch on Sunday.
New boy behind the stumps Jos Buttler has shown that he can be more than just a big hitter at the crease, with some measured innings and apart from the odd mistake, he kept pretty well.
The Lancashire man could freeze Matt Prior out of the side. Meanwhile, Sam Robson proved to be a weak link and he needs to improve over the winter as England needs a reliable opener partner to relieve pressure on Cook.
The improvement from all quarters to win the Series 3-1 is an achievement Cook can be proud of, however this triumph against the meekest of tourists will not immediately heal the scars of a the humiliating Ashes winter and the loss to Sri Lanka earlier this summer.
Sir Geoffrey Boycott is right in his sentiment that it is difficult to measure where in terms of quality the England side is currently at, as India were pathetic. The inexperienced Indian players could not deal with the swinging conditions on pitches like Old Trafford and were lambs to slaughter.
It was not the challenge England need to prepare to wrestle back the Ashes next summer.
One-sided routs, like the one England received in Australia, and the one England dished out themselves to India, are not the kind of contests one wants to see from Test matches and will not benefit England in their fight back to dominance.
Fletcher, Cook and rest of the England camp can draw confidence from the individual improvements this Series, but they must not be distracted from the truth that the unit as a whole has a long way to go before they are ready to defeat Australia.
India rolled over, one can be sure the buoyant Aussies will not.
Picture: Huffington Post