We didn’t expect much, but how little we got was still surprising: Guerilla commentators reflect on India’s triumph

Tony Bishop

Series review: As a man who predicted a 1-1 scoreline, the main surprise, probably only to me, is that in retrospect this prediction was completely daft. As a cricket fan, the series both excited and disappointed in equal measure. Deeply disappointing that after Chennai provided nine out of 10 possible days’ cricket, Ahmedabad delivered just five out of 10. While it may have ensured India got to the World Test Championship final, even the BCCI must see that that is bad for Test cricket. England lost the series, but the biggest losers were cricket fans and free-to-air broadcasters hoping to promote the series as a showpiece for our sport.

Surprise package (India): In his debut series, Axar Patel was surprising, even given England’s weaknesses. A total of 161 wickets at 25 in first-class cricket suggests talent, but 27 wickets at 10.59 and a strike-rate of 28 was off the scale!

Surprise package (England): Jonny Bairstow – while we didn’t expect much, exactly how little we got was still surprising.

Cause for concern (India): Kohli did say India needed to work on their batting and the fact is there were cracks there. Shubman Gill was a particular worry.

Cause for concern (England): Let’s remember, they were very close to being right back in the final Test – and the series – until Pant intervened. A reliable second spinner needs to be found if they are going to get results in India.

Best moment: Stumps hurtling backwards in Jimmy’s match-winning spell in the second innings of the first Test.

Funniest moment: Pant running in front of the stumps to field a Pope top edge only to find it wasn’t there – it was actually on its way to third man.

T20 prediction: 4-1 India

ODI prediction: 2-1 England

Ratings: India: Rohit 8, Gill 3, Pujara 4, Kohli 6, Rahane 4, Pant 9, Sundar 7, Ashwin 9, Patel 9, Shabhaz 2, Ishant 6, Bumrah 4, Siraj 7, Kuldeep 5

England: Burns 2, Sibley 3, Lawrence 6, Root 7, Stokes 7, Buttler 2, Crawley 5, Bairstow 1, Bess 4, Foakes 5, Leach 7, Moeen 3, Anderson 8, Broad 2, Stone 7, Archer 5, Selectors 3

Dave Brook

Series review: Ill-conceived rotation policy by England tour management with Ed Smith’s disastrous team selection – like a general always fighting the previous war. How many England players would get into everyone’s combined XI? Washington Sundar would walk into the England team.

Best moment: So many – Pant’s assault on Leach, that Anderson over, Ashwin’s 100 in front of his home crowd, Pant’s 100 and his partnership with Washington Sundar, the different ways England got Kohli out.

Funniest moment: Jonathan Agnew commentating on an action replay – sorry wrong series that was Sri Lanka. Still, shows this commentating off-tube is not easy.

T20 prediction 5-0 India

ODI prediction 3-0 Eng

Ratings: India: Rohit, 9, Gill 4, Pujara 4, Kohli 4, Rahane 2, Pant 10, Ashwin 9, Sundar 8 Axar Patel 10, Siraj 8, Bumrah 5, Ishant 7, Shabhaz 1, Kuldeep 3

England: Sibley 1, Burns 1 (two without the haircut), Crawley 4, Bairstow 0, Root 9, Stokes 7, Pope 1, Lawrence 6, Foakes 7, Bess 2, Leach 8, Moeen 5, Anderson 9, Broad 4, Archer 5, Stone 6

Cat Jones

Surprise package (India) Axar Patel: amazing debut and series

Surprise package (England) Foakes: Capable & handsome

Cause for concern (India): Nothing.

Cause for concern (England): The openers

Best moment: The ongoing theme after England won the first Test that they were playing to win a spot for Australia in the World Test Championship final.

Funniest moment: Virat Kohli helping Joe Root with his cramp and catches taken off rebounds from close fielders

T20 prediction: India 4-1

0DI prediction Eng 2-1

Ratings: India Rohit 8, Gill 4, Pujara 5, Kohli 7, Rahane 6, Pant 9, Ashwin 10, Sundar 8, Axar Patel 9, Ishant 7, Siraj 7, Bumrah 7, Shabhaz 6, Kuldeep 5

England: Sibley 6, Burns 6, Crawley 6, Root 9, Lawrence 7, Stokes 8, Bairstow 4, Pope 6 Moeen 7, Foakes 7, Buttler 5, Bess 5, Archer 5, Anderson 8, Leach 8, Broad 5


Series review: England played India’s spin attack on their home grounds much as they have for the last century, like a man trying to unlock his front door with the car key Thus far, predictable enough. Amongst surprises, the first Test was that rare bird, a touring side ambushing their host, while the third produced a novel and rather hilarious highlights reel in which England’s premier batsmen contrived to play around a series of medium-slow straight balls, and, most surprising of all, Joe Root snaffled 5-8. If the other tests were Once Upon A Time In India, Parts 1-3, the third was more John Wick.

Surprise package (India): Axar Patel. His relentless accuracy would mark him down as phenomenally difficult in home conditions ordinarily, but in the third Test in particular his rapid spin with no discernible change of action rendered him almost unplayable, at least to standard test batsmen of today. I wonder if this was what it might have been like watching S F Barnes.

Surprise package (England): Joe Root continuing his renaissance from the Sri Lanka tour into the first Test with a grand-daddy double century. Some of us had rather given up on seeing this pre-captaincy version, although the runs subsequently dried up.

Cause for concern (India): Theoretically, the “Big 4” batsmen all approaching their mid-30s at the same time might ordinarily be a worry, but when thoughts turn to a succession policy in a couple of years’ time, there will in all probability be a queue knocking on the door. No problems anywhere to be seen amongst bowling stocks.

Cause for concern (England): Mostly among the batting line-up There are technical deficiencies with Burns, Sibley and Crawley; Pope looking mentally fried by the tour end, England remain heavily reliant on Root and Stokes. Quick bowling stocks are fine, but none of the express contenders (Archer, Wood, Stone) bring much with the bat.

Best moment: Virat helping Joe Root when he had cramp, both with a smile on their face. Elite standard sport yes, but a pleasant and healthy exchange which set the right tone for a series which was played in (mostly) good spirit.

Funniest moment: I have a mental compilation of facial expressions: Broad on being told he’s being rested; the Ashwin and Virat double act when another review is seen to be sailing over the stumps; Sundar on 97 watching Siraj back away and be bowled; Johnny B marching off to the pavilion having just proved a point to some imaginary friend; Pant all the time.

T20 prediction Eng 3-2

ODI prediction India 2-1

Ratings: India: Rohit 8.5, Gill 5.5, Pujara 5, Virat 7, Rahane 5.5, Pant 8.5, Ashwin 8.5, Axar Patel 9, Kuldeep 3, Sundar 7.5, Ishant 7, Siraj 7, Bumrah 7, Shahbaz 3

England: Sibley 5.5, Crawley 5, Burns 4.5, Root 7.5, Bairstow 2.5, Lawrence 6, Pope 4.5, Stokes 7, Buttler 6.5, Foakes 6.5, Leach 7, Anderson 8, Archer 5, Moeen 7, Stone 6.5, Broad 3, Bess 4

The Bear

Series review: We came, we saw and we capitulated. After a good win on a great Test wicket the India brains trust decided spinning wickets were the way forward and that was it for England. In the immortal words of Lou Reed, “turn them over, they’re done”.

Surprise package: (India) Axar Patel, someone we’d seen bowl left-arm darts in the IPL. Turns out that if you bowl like that on sluggish but exploding pitches it’s really bloody threatening.

Surprise package (England) Jack Leach. We thought our spin department would be far out bowled by India’s but Leach managed 18 wickets and grew into himself as the series went on.

Cause for concern: (India) The relative failure of their middle order at home – maybe new father Kohli was fatigued but Che Pujara and Rahane didn’t deliver as expected and Shubman Gill’Ss bright start fizzled out.

Cause for concern: (England): The whole team apart from Root, Anderson, Leach and to a certain extent Stokes. Woeful when the screw was turned, there were too many players who’d not encountered such conditions before. At least they will learn something for the next time…

Best moment: Anderson’s over to rip out Kohli and Rahane in the first Test to set up the win.

Funniest moment: Pujara getting his bat stuck in the ground and dropping it to be run out; he did find odd ways to get out.

T20 prediction: Eng 4-1

ODI prediction Eng 2-1

Ratings: India Rohit 9, Gill 5, Pujara 6, Virat 7, Rahane 5, Pant 8, Ashwin 9, Axar 9, Sundar 6, Ishant 7, Bumrah 4, Siraj 7, Shabhaz 3, Kuldeep 3

England: Burns 2, Sibley 4, Crawley 4, Bairstow 1, Root 7, Stokes 6, Pope 5, Lawrence 5, Buttler 6, Foakes 6, Moeen 5, Archer 4, Broad 3, Anderson 6, Stone 7, Bess 3

Jason G Hiscox

Series review: England surprised me by stringing enough performances together in one Test to win a game; I had expected a 4-0 thrashing. That it was the first Test was even more surprising given how poorly they usually start away series. Thereafter, reversion to type quickly followed in three abject defeats based on ineffective bowling and pathetic batting.

Surprise package: (India) Pant by a nose over Axar because he is a bar-emptier in the mould of Botham and Gilchrist. People want to see what he’s going to do, even if it is running past a spinning ball to be stumped by miles as he tries to banzai the ball out of the ground.

Surprise package (England) Leach bowled well without much luck and Anderson was exceptional in conditions not favourable to him.

Cause for concern (India) Both Pujara and Rahane had very ordinary series. Is this the start of their decline?

Best moment: Anderson’s double wicket over just beats out Root’s 5-8 and his double ton.

Funniest moment: Moeen’s f**k you calculated assault (calculated to give him an IPL contract) in the second Test once the match had been lost.

T20 prediction: Eng to win 3-2

ODI prediction: Eng to win 2-1

Ratings: India: Rohit 8, Gill 5, Pujara 6 Kohli 7, Rahane 5.5 Pant 9.5 Ashwin 9 Sundar 7.5 Axar Patel 9.5 Ishant 8, Siraj 8.5 Shabhaz 2, Kuldeep 2

England: Burns 2.5, Sibley 3.5, Crawley 3, Bairstow 1, Root 8.5, Stokes 7.5 Pope 3.5, Lawrence 4.5 Buttler 4 Foakes 7 Moeen 5.5, Bess 3, Leach 7.5 Archer 6.5, Broad 5, Anderson 8.5

Nakul Pande

Series review: This is India’s greatest ever Test squad – but the disappointment is that they didn’t have to play like it. After a near-perfect performance to win the first Test, England allowed one bad session in the second to obliterate all sense of a plan with the bat, and from then on they reverted to either prodding hopefully or swiping desperately. India in effect won the series with four batters and two bowlers. Given India’s unparalleled home dominance (12 straight series wins, 28 wins and 4 draws from 36 Tests), maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that that was enough.

Surprise package (India): That Axar is a good bowler isn’t news, but what was startling is that he came into Test cricket so seemingly fully formed. His domestic record is good but not outstanding, he has very little India A experience – but he transcended all of that, and perhaps his greatest achievement of all was that we barely mentioned the fact that Ravindra Jadeja (who should still walk back into the team when fit) was injured.

Surprise package (England): Olly Stone We knew he was quick, we knew he could be hostile, but watching him be just as quick and hostile in his third spell as his first was most impressive. He has leapfrogged Mark Wood in the Test fast bowler queue, and, though England aren’t short of seam options, Stone could be a viable option to help ensure the long-term multi-format effectiveness of Jofra Archer.

Cause for concern (India): Kuldeep Yadav. Not his bowling so much – how can you tell from 12.2 overs – but his place in the India set up. He’s been given repeated public votes of confidence, and remains a thrilling bowler to watch, but he was left out of the first Test even after Axar Patel got injured, was a near bystander when he did finally play, and has now been left out of the T20I squad after only playing one of six limited overs games in Australia. Is he a victim of the same Indian conservatism that saw Rishabh Pant’s gifts overlooked for so long?

Cause for concern (England) Ollie Pope. A dominant first-class record, a glorious range of strokes, a lightness of foot that means he can get forward or back with ease – but faced with R Ashwin’s mastery of flight and length, the most promising of all England’s young batters became a symbol for the team’s crease-bound indecision and lack of belief in their own methods. Many have struggled on their first tours of India, and Ricky Ponting springs to mind as one who recovered to make a great career, but when it comes to the young pontiff the smoke remains very much black.

T20 prediction: Eng to win 3-2

ODI prediction Eng 2-1

Ratings: India: Rohit 8, Gill 5, Pujara 5, Kohli 6, Rahane 5, Pant 9, Ashwin 9, Sundar 7, Axar Patel 10, Shabhaz 3, Kuldeep 5, Ishant 6, Bumrah 6, Siraj 6

England Crawley 4, Sibley 5, Burns 3, Bairstow 2, Lawrence 6, Root 6.5, Stokes 6, Pope 3, Buttler 5, Foakes 6, Moeen 4, Bess 3, Leach 7, Archer 6, Stone 6, Anderson 8, Broad 4


Series review: An unexpected first Test win – a game plan (and toss) executed to perfection -raised hopes for England fans that were swiftly dashed when spin averse batsmen were exposed to top-class slow bowling on pitches of varying quality. England will whinge, moan, get no further experience on turning, bouncing pitches in the foreseeable future and return to India next time in a similar state, lose badly, whinge, moan and get no further experience on turning, bouncing pitches etc etc.

Surprise package (India): Axar obviously. Impressively economical in the IPL, we never suspected his darts would wound England quite so mortally at Test level. Out-Jadeja’d Jadeja.

Surprise package (England): Dan Lawrence. A victim of seam early on, leg-side Larry returned for the final Test to play spin with a method that totally eluded others in his side. Opening himself up so that he was almost front-on he allowed the quicker ball to come right into his zone before dampening its effects.

Cause for concern (India) Minor worry over Shubman Gill. Failed to build on his impressive tour to Australia, looking good before getting out to decent balls – and Prithvi Shaw is back to form in one-day cricket to put the pressure on, while Mayank Agarwal looks on with interest.

Cause for concern (England). Where do you start? Pope will come again, back on seam- friendly pitches in England as, probably, will Sibley, Burns and Crawley, who still showed some promise. But the treatment of Bess was negligent in the extreme and there will deservedly be questions asked of the management if he turns out to be this decade’s Simon Kerrigan.

Best moment: Joe Root finally getting the five-for that escaped him in South Africa with pacy round-arm spinners to left-handers just beats Anderson uprooting world-class batsmen’s stumps, with a side mention for Moeen’s dismissal of Kohli. And Ashwin’s hundred more or less killed England stone dead.

Funniest moment: Shubman Gill hopping and collapsing in a heap as Dom Sibley’s full-blooded sweep smacks him straight in the knee and loops up for the unmoving Rishabh Pant in the final Test. Hysteria was the only response.

T20 prediction: 3-2 India

ODI prediction: 2-1 India

Ratings: India: Rohit 8, Gill 4, Pujara 5.5, Kohli 6.5 Rahane 5, Pant 9.5, Ashwin 9.5, Axar Patel 9.5, Sundar 7.5, Shabhaz 4, Bumrah 6, Ishant 7, Siraj 7, Kuldeep 4

England: Burns 3, Crawley 5, Sibley 4.5, Bairstow 3, Root 8, Stokes 6.5, Buttler 4.5, Pope 3.5, Foakes 6.5, Bess 4, Moeen 5.5, Leach 7.5, Anderson 8, Broad 4, Stone 7, Archer 5.5

Jingle by Richard Peel

Broadcast Schedule

England v Pakistan 2024 T20 series
1st T20, ENG v PAK, Headingley
22nd May
Start time: 6:30 pm BST