As many as 2543.3 kilometers separate Dhaka and Rajkot. However, the distance appeared to be even longer when England managed to bounce back from an ignominious loss in the second Test against Bangladesh to push the top-ranked Indian team particularly hard in the drawn series opener. The performance has even impressed head coach Trevor Bayliss who called it their ‘best’ under him.
The 53-year old took over the role prior to the 2015 Ashes and has overseen some memorable victories in Trent Bridge, Durban and Johannesburg in his tenure thus far. Even though the first Test at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium ended in a draw, he hailed his players for beginning a tough tour with a wholehearted effort.
Bayliss felt, “Win, lose or draw, I thought effort-wise that's probably the best performance we've had since I've been with the team. The way the guys played in this Test should give us plenty of confidence. Our batters played well against their spinners, and our spinners and seamers all bowled well. We acquitted ourselves very well.”
Upon winning the toss on a flat surface which did not offer much to both seam as well as spin, Alastair Cook’s side exploited the graciousness of the hosts to register a mammoth first innings total. However, India responded with a strong batting performance of their own to restrict the lead. Even though England did cause a few jitters in their opposition camp, the timing of the declaration ensured that the score line was still at 0-0.
With calls from almost all quarters imploring Vizag to offer a vicious turner, the visitors could be in for an uncomfortable time. If the fifth ODI against New Zealand was anything to go by, spinners will come into play right from the very first delivery. However, England’s steady batting display might have just refueled the confidence which seemed to be torn to pieces following the 1-1 series draw in Bangladesh.
A wary Bayliss acknowledged, “We're under no illusions that these next four Tests could be even tougher than this one. But if we put in more performances like that, we'll probably be playing consistent cricket. And that's what we're after and we'll have a chance of winning more games. So, we've got to continue putting in that effort. But if we do, we've a chance of winning.”
He offered a subtle hint regarding the tourists’ playing combination for the next match. Although James Anderson has resumed bowling in the nets and may remain eager to get back into the team, Bayliss does not seem to be in any mood to hasten the veteran’s comeback.
The Australian quipped, “We went with these three guys, but we could very easily have gone with (Gareth) Batty. He's actually also been bowling quite well. But we thought on this occasion, we would have a look at a spinner of each type and those three performed well in this game.”
“We'll assess Anderson in the next couple of days. But from all reports, he's been bowling well in the nets. The medical staff say he's in better shape than he was when he came back and played against Pakistan. We'll put him through his paces again. He's a guy who's always looked after himself, so he's nicely fit.”