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Christmas comes early for England

Posted in England in India 2012-13

Alastair Cook

Alastair Cook led England to a first Test series victory in India since the mid-1980s

Christmas Day may still be just over a week away, but plenty of England supporters will surely have exclaimed something along the lines of 'Ho Ho Ho' this morning after Alastair Cook's men secured a magnificent Test series victory in India.

As early gifts go, this triumph - England's first on Indian soil in almost 28 years - certainly represents a significant improvement on the unwrapped pair of socks given to me last year by a relative who shall remain nameless.

Although two Twenty20 matches remain before the tourists return home, England's players are likely to remain full of the jolly spirit associated with the festive season for some time yet, having excelled themselves in battling back from a first-Test defeat in Ahmedabad.

Putting aside the increasingly tenuous Christmas references (for a short while at least) I simply cannot give enough credit to the team for their efforts in recent weeks.

Any victory over India on their own turf is to be prized, but Cook and Co have demonstrated skill and character in equal measure by overcoming a comprehensive series-opening loss to eventually prevail 2-1.

Even before events went in the hosts' favour at Ahmedabad, England were facing a significant battle against the odds.

Not only was history against them, but their form in 2012 had been patchy at best and the retirement of Andrew Strauss left a huge hole to fill, both in terms of run-scoring and leadership.

Ably assisted by Nick Compton, a resilient performer in his maiden series, Cook did more than anyone to ensure his first assignment as permanent Test captain will be remembered for years to come.

By any standards, a tally of 562 runs from four matches is impressive. To achieve such a feat when shouldering increased responsibility in a land where England batsmen have rarely prospered is truly remarkable.

That is not to suggest for one minute that India were beaten by one man alone, for several other players delivered exceptional performances when it really mattered.

Indeed, with an Ashes double-header looming large on the horizon, there is much to encourage team director Andy Flower.

England's last triumph over India in the summer of 2011 lifted Flower's charges to top spot in the International Cricket Council Test rankings, a position now occupied by South Africa.

While it would be foolish to get carried away at this stage, particularly so soon after a 2-0 series defeat at the hands of the Proteas, England's latest success would appear to suggest a speedy return to the summit is a realistic goal for a team boasting renewed confidence and self-belief.

If the performances in India can be emulated, next year promises to be a cracker...

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