Photo Credit: [Philip Brown]/Getty Images

England thrashed India 4-1 in the recently concluded Specsavers Test Series. But the series wasn’t as one sided as the score line suggests it was. India didn’t capitalize from commanding positions three times in the series and let England lower order batsmen take the game away from them.

India had England 87 for 7 at Edgbaston and 86 for 6 (also 178 for 6 in the 2nd innings) in Southampton, and even 171-6 at the Kia Oval. But as they say, cricket is not a game of “what could have been if”. It doesn’t work on the ground, though it does on papers and that’s what we are doing now through this piece and we do with many other write-ups like this.

It was a series of so many players underperforming and not rising up to their potential. Only a few quite rose up to the occasion and showing characters when it mattered the most. So, here we start with the Best XI from this series –

We will start and put the names in batting order itself to avoid confusions about a player’s role in the team.

1 KL RAHUL – Though Rahul was one of the most disappointing batters from India till the fourth test but still he makes the cut because others were even poorer than him.  He eventually ended up as India’s second highest run getter of the series by scoring a brilliant century when India was three down for just one run on the board, chasing 464 in the 4th innings of Oval test.

Alastair Cook is also a contender for the opening slot but his slip catching gives him the edge. The number of catches, a couple of quick 30s and a brilliant fourth innings century gives him an edge over Cook, who also got a ton in his farewell test. Though Rahul and Cook both got runs only in a dead rubber test, but when we compare two poor ones, the one who is less poor is preferred.

  1. Cheteshwar Pujara – Due to repeatedly poor performances from the openers, Pujara got to bat earlier than expected in almost every innings. After getting dropped in the first test, he looked determined to better-off his overseas record this time and scored 278 runs averaging 39.71. He averaged only less than Virat Kohli in this series and his innings of 132* in the fourth test was one of the finest execution of batsmanship we have seen in this series. During this innings he carried his bat out from No.3 and piled up runs with Ishant and Bumrah in the end which provided India a handy first Innings lead.

3. Joe Root – The England captain was not in his best touch this series but played few handy innings and also was the victim of run outs twice in the series at crunch moments. Scored 319 runs at 35.44 and it puts him right there at No.3 position.

4. Virat Kohli © – This is the easiest of picks and a no-brainer. The leader of the pack who lead from the front and buried his demons of 2014 in England. Scored a staggering 593 runs at 59.30 scoring two hundreds and three fifties (including one 97). There could be an argument to pick Joe Root over Kohli as captain because of Kohli couldn’t do much about England’s tail. But Root was also on the same page as he looked defensive and clueless when Indian tail also accumulated runs on few occasions. So Virat’s Leading from the front attitude gives him the edge.

Virat Kohli
Photo Credit: [Stu Forster]/Getty Images

5. Ajinkya Rahane – We saw Rahane 2.0 in this series and unfortunately this was a poorer version of Rahane. India’s so-called overseas specialist was nowhere near to the standards set by himself in the past. Though he played two brilliant innings when India was in real trouble and that makes the cut for him. Jonny Bairstow could also be a contender for this position but the logic of ‘less poor’ applies and Rahane gets in.

6. Ben Stokes – One of the finest all-rounder present in world cricket right now in all formats missed the second match due to his court hearings but was at his absolute best with the ball in the first test and won it for England. 200 runs and 14 wickets in the series undisputedly places him at no.6 as an allrounder.

7. Jos Buttler(wk) – England’s vice-captain and one of the most fluent batsmen in the series undisputedly makes the cut with no other wicket-keeper bat near to him. England’s highest run-getter with 349 runs with two fifties and a hundred and smart glove work behind the wicket in Bairstow’s absence. That’s enough qualification.

8. Sam Curran – England’s Man of The Series and the game changer for England throughout the series, Sam Curran has frustrated India by crunching in with the ball at crucial times as well as getting England out of trouble by scoring runs with the tail. His 272 runs and 11 wickets were probably the difference between India and
England.

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9. Moeen Ali – Though Moeen played only two tests in the series but done enough to be in the best XI. He outperformed Ashwin in the fourth test and sealed the deal for England by providing them an unassailable lead of 3-1. 12 wickets in just two matches and a hard-fought fifty batting at three suggests that Moeen was at his absolute best in every department.

10. Ishant Sharma – Fortunately for India the Ishant Sharma 2.0 was much better version than the previous ones. Ishant consistently kept hitting the deck at right areas and also got the results in his favor as his wickets column was so good to look with 18 scalps to his name, only second to Jimmy Anderson.

11. James Anderson – Another no-brainer, As termed by Cook – England’s Greatest ever Cricketer Jimmy Anderson was at his absolute best in this series and was letting the ball float in the air at will. With his last wicket of the series he became the highest wicket taker of all time among fast bowlers in tests surpassing Glenn Mcgrath. The master of swing had clinched 24 scalps at a staggering bowling average of 18.13 and it spoke volume about him as an all-time great.

 

Jonny Bairstow, Jasprit Bumrah, Alistair Cook, Mohammad Shami and Stuart Broad missed from making it to the XI. These were the players good enough to miss out, some because of their dismal show and some because they were outperformed by other conteders. So this concludes the Best XI of a memorable series.

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