There were several factors that divided India and England this evening, but none may have proved quite so decisive as each teamâ€™s solution to the question of spin. Diametrically opposed at the toss, England left out Panesar while India brought in Powar. And while Monty was bringing on the drinks, his Indian counterparts were bringing Englandâ€™s run chase under control.
Englandâ€™s decision to opt in Tremlett was based on the short straight boundary at Bristol, which prompted fears that a front-line spinner would only leak runs. This attitude also seemed to infect their batting, with Collingwood bowled on the charge and Flintoff caught in the deep. Chawla in particular was impressive, tying down Englandâ€™s batsmen. Ian Bell, normally a confident player of spin, lacked fluency and while his partners fell around him, he did not manage to keep the runs ticking over. Heroic though Mascarenhasâ€™ quick tempo half-century and Broadâ€™s impressive last over swinging may have been, it was too little, too late, against a spiralling run rate.
Although Prior and Cook started in a positive vein, a total exceeding 300 has seldom been posted at Bristol, let alone exceeded. Indianâ€™s batting was much like that of Englandâ€™s on Tuesday; Tendulkar in particular was outstanding at the top of the order, and Dravid superlative at the close. Given their performance at the Rose Bowl, Englandâ€™s bowling was verging on wayward, although still an improvement on much of what weâ€™ve seen over the last 12 months.
Tremlettâ€™s inclusion did not pay off; however, it is questionable whether Panesar would have made the difference. Indiaâ€™s batsmen are amongst the best players of spin world wide, and this was reflected in Montyâ€™s quiet Test series. The other slower bowlers in Englandâ€™s ranks were treated to high economy rates today, despite watertight showings at Southampton, and Panesar might well have fallen to the same sword.
With Sidebottom still unavailable, when Collingwood takes his teamsheet to the toss at Edgbaston, it will be intruiging to see whom he calls upon. It seems highly unlikely that Monty will miss out again.