England’s head coach, Chris Silverwood, has called on his team to learn from India’s clinical displays in their Test series after a gruelling and morale-sapping 157-run defeat in the fourth game left them 2-1 down with one to play.
England went into the final day at the Oval on 77 without loss, chasing 368 to win on a flat pitch, only to be routed after lunch as India’s bowlers turned on the style. “Monday in particular showed why they are arguably the No 1 team in the world,” Silverwood said. “It was an outstanding bowling performance. It seems they get half an opportunity and they push the door open and go for it. I’m watching that, hoping to learn from that, and hopefully it’s something we can instil into our team over a period of time.”
Though England’s latest defeat will have damaged the spirits of all their players, it will have been particularly draining for the seamers who slogged their way through India’s second innings. Jimmy Anderson bowled 33 overs in that innings alone, one more than Ollie Robinson and Chris Woakes, while only 22.2% of deliveries came from the team’s two spinning options, Moeen Ali and Joe Root; when India bowled for a second time 32.5% of the work was done by their one spinner, Ravi Jadeja.
Silverwood backed Root’s use of spin – “He is the one out there on the coal face and has to go with his gut instinct” – but the result is that of Anderson’s last 30 Test matches two of the three heaviest in terms of workload have come in this series, while in 101 y 226 previous first-class innings respectively both Robinson and Woakes had bowled as many as 32 overs just twice.
“All the seamers put a shift in in this game,” said Silverwood, who is expected to bring Mark Wood into the team for the final Test, which starts at Old Trafford on Friday. “I’m proud of the way they have contributed to the game, the way they have gone about their business, the effort they have put in for the team. [Their fitness] is something we’ve got to keep an eye on, but equally we had to win this Test as well to put our best foot forward going into the next one, so we had to have a crack at them. We have got some aching bodies, I’m not going to deny that.”
Silverwood will decide with Anderson whether England’s senior player is able to put his body on the line again. “He will certainly give me an honest opinion of where he is at, and it’s certainly something I will listen to,” Silverwood said. “We have to make sure we look after him.” Another decision will be forced on him by the return of Jos Buttler, who missed the game at the Oval to be present at the birth of his second daughter, Maggie. If Buttler reclaims his place as vice-captain, there may only be room for one of Jonny Bairstow or Ollie Pope.
Spinner Jack Leach, out of the squad in recent months, despite excellent figures on the tours of Sri Lanka and India in the winter, has also been recalled.
Having lost a Test series on turning pitches in India over the winter, England are now on the verge of losing to the same team again in more favourable conditions. “I think they have certainly improved in English conditions – if you look at the last time they were here in 2018 and where they are now you can see that,” said Silverwood.
“In the winter the amount of spin that we faced out there was completely alien to us. We have to give them some credit, especially their seamers, the way they have held the line and length, just as we try to do in this country. Equally their opening batsmen have left extremely well and made us bowl well at them. Not wanting to big India up too much, they have obviously learnt from past experiences and put that into action.”