Five things we learned from England’s Hyderabad heroics

By Sports Desk January 29, 2024

England produced one of the best Test wins in their history in Hyderabad, coming from behind to stun India with a 28-run victory in the series opener.

Here, PA looks at some of the key takeaways from four unforgettable days.

Never write off the Bazball brigade

Since Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum brought their ambitious philosophy to an underperforming dressing room, they have rewritten the rules of engagement in cricket’s oldest format. Even so, many thought India’s 190-run first-innings lead was simply too much to overcome. This England side do not allow themselves to be weighed down by precedent or pressure, though. They won’t succeed every time but for Stokes’ men there is no such thing as mission impossible.

Pope’s promise fulfilled

Ollie Pope has been talked about as a star in the making for years, but his game-changing 196 looked and felt like an innings that finally propelled him to the next level. Prior to the regime change that brought Stokes to power, he was on the verge of becoming a wasted talent but his numbers are trending in a formidable direction. In 23 Tests before the summer of ’22, he averaged 28.66 and had just one century to his name – in 16 Tests since, he averages 46.46 with four hundreds.

All-conquering India can be knocked off course

India have established an enviable reputation on home soil since they were last beaten by a touring team, Sir Alastair Cook’s England 2012 side. But there were chinks in their armour in Hyderabad. In the second innings of the match, their elite spin attack seemed spooked by the inventiveness of the strokeplay, with the steady supply of sweeps, reverse sweeps and ramps upsetting their usual rhythm. When it came to chasing down 231, they then found themselves unusually passive, with too many batters clinging on for dear life rather than building momentum. For the first time in a decade, they look vulnerable under fire.

Selectors justified in going Hartley over head

Eyebrows were raised when Lancashire Tom Hartley got the nod for this tour with a modest first-class record doing little to push his case. There were other left-arm spinners with superior stats, most obviously Hampshire’s experienced Liam Dawson who had just come off the back of an excellent county season. But England, led by director of cricket Rob Key, fancied that Hartley’s specific characteristics of height, air speed and trajectory would flourish on Indian pitches. After a tough baptism, he proved them right in glorious fashion with seven for 62 in second innings.

King Kohli leaves a vacuum

There is no bigger name in world cricket than Virat Kohli and his withdrawal from the first two Tests for personal reasons weakened the home side. Kohli’s absence from the middle order diminished India’s potency, with Shubman Gill, KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer unable to cover for him. But his aura and spiky personality were missed too. It is hard to imagine India being so quiet and passive in the field as England racked up 420 and he would surely have played more aggressively in the subsequent chase. Should he feel able to make a belated entrance in the series, it could prove a huge moment.

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