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Hope England stay on top for a while

The scenes were joyous if also little pompous and formal. The England players, having received the npower Trophy and the Pataudi Trophy amid the ritual wasting of champagne, set off on a jubilant lap of honour to a rousing rendition of Jerusalem. Then, after one circuit, it was time to gather again while five uniformed and gloved officers goose-stepped to the podium carrying, with great solemnity, the ICC Test mace.

Still, nobody in England, certainly not in the nation’s cricket team, has ever seen the mace before. It has resided, for most of its adult life, in Australia, and for a short while in India. It is now, though, assuredly at home in England and if Strauss has anything to do with it, it will remain here for a good while yet.

If the team’s standing is unchallenged, then the individuals within it are becoming increasingly well regarded by the international game. One begets the other. Ian Bell, man of the match for his double hundred, and Alastair Cook are third equal in the world rankings; Jonathan Trott is sixth and Kevin Pietersen eighth. Five bowlers are in the top 11 in the world: Jimmy Anderson (second), Graeme Swann (third), Stuart Broad (fifth), Chris Tremlett (tenth) and Tim Bresnan (eleventh). This is a powerful unit, individually and collectively.

England’s standing at the summit of the world Test game was confirmed in the aftermath of another thumping victory, this time by an innings and eight runs a veritable a***-nipper compared with the scale of the victory last week at Edgbaston. It came on the stroke of tea when Sreesanth was bowled, via an inside edge, by Graeme Swann, his sixth wicket of another outstanding display from England’s bowling unit.

For 40 overs Monday, though, as Sachin Tendulkar and Amit Mishra withstood everything that England threw at them, it looked as though the overnight wishes of a billion India fans were going to come true.

Not only did these two batsmen look like taking their team to a draw, but Tendulkar’s hundredth international hundred was looming ever closer. They batted throughout the morning session, adding 144 together, India’s highest partnership of the series.

At this point, five overs away from the second new ball, England’s frustrations were clear enough. They had given Tendulkar two lives through their own errors and had umpiring judgements go against them more times than they cared to remember. Tempers were beginning to fray; Strauss was given an official warning by the umpires because his team had been trampling unnecessarily over the pitch between overs.

But as so often has happened in this series, and for the last two years, England found the extra gear when they needed to.

It was Swann who broke Mishra’s resistance when he castled him with a straight one and then Bresnan broke a billion hearts when he was given the benefit of a marginal leg-before decision against Tendulkar, when the Little Master was nine runs shy of a milestone that will surely never be challenged.

After Tendulkar, just 21 more runs were added in 14 overs, the Nottinghamshire combination of Swann and Stuart Broad, man of the series for his all-round contributions, proving too hot to handle. Tendulkar had begun the day on 35 and for the first time in the series had shown signs of control at the crease. He was far less fidgety than before, less bothered by the imaginary demons behind the bowler’s arm. Amid the drops and the close appeals, he continued to push on assertively, so that the chances of a hundred had progressed gradually from odds against to odds on when he pulled Pietersen to the square-leg boundary to go into the 90s, a damn near certainty.

Bresnan then replaced Pietersen at the OCS Stand End and his first ball angled in so that Tendulkar thought about working it through the leg side, which he would have done had he not missed the ball. When the appeal was upheld, Bresnan roared his approval, although Tendulkar stayed and looked quizzically at Tucker. It is about as close to dissent as Tendulkar will ever get.

That hundred will probably come now on a dank September evening in Cardiff or Durham. Tucker, fair enough decision though it was, would be advised to avoid Mumbai for a while.

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