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By Richard Foord
Thursday’s Twenty20 match versus India saw England field an experimental 11 with James Tredwell and Stuart Meaker making their debuts at the expense of the rested Swann and Pietersen. Tim Bresnan was the only member of the test match team making an appearance.
A number of things can be read into the youthful nature of the squad. One could note the encouraging depth of English cricket at the moment. The luxury of fielding an almost entirely distinct T20 team from the test team in one rarely afforded to a cricketing nation. The cases of several individuals pushing for starting places in the one day team were done no harm either. Alex Hales knocked a composed and consummate 56 off 35 balls and Jos Buttler showed glimpses of his destructive potential batting down the order; sixes accounting for more than half his quick-fire 33.
However, one may also argue that the relatively inexperienced team represents an almost blasé attitude with which English cricket approaches T20 in general. The series is at best a side-show to the test series. If a test match is high drama, T20 is light entertainment, a pantomime with sound effects, villains, and boisterous costumes.
During the test match series, the stat that was on the tip of every English fan’s lips was the fact that England had not won a test series in India for 27 years. Such a sense of historical import is entirely lacking within the shortest format of the game. T20 is of course the youngest format of the game, but it still remains the most ephemeral. Like fast food, it provides instant gratification but is neither memorable nor significant. England won the test series. That’s all the matters. That’s all that cricket fans will remember.
In terms of the test series, there is also much that England and their supporters can be pleased with. Alistair Cook enjoyed an exceptional start to his career as England captain, scoring five centuries in his first five matches. His most recent knock took him top of the all time English centurions list, with 23 centuries. One can’t help but think that he will remain at the top for a very long time.
By far the most pleasing sight of the series was that of Monty Panesar skipping around the pitch once more – the England selectors finally realising that four seam bowlers would not hold the key to unlock the India batting line up (although not before such stubborn selection cost England the first test).
Panesar outshone his Indian opponents on their own patch. His variations of pace were destructive against the top order, and nullified Shane Warne’s infamous claim that he had ‘played the same test 37 times’. However, it is difficult to envisage him shifting Swann from the team when Australia tour England next summer in eminently seam-friendly conditions.
It has been a tumultuous year for English cricket. They were disappointing in Pakistan, and abject against South Africa. Yet their most recent triumph ends 2012 on a hopeful note. The team has taken a back seat in the year of the Olympics and the Tour de France. However 2013 is an Ashes year, and I daresay that things are looking up.