Sir Ian Botham says England have ‘turned the corner’ after ending their 11-Test wait for a win, with victory over India at the Ageas Bowl on Thursday.
After a morale-sapping 95-run loss in the second Test at Lord’s, Alastair Cook’s men produced a near-faultless display in Hampshire to level the series at 1-1 with two to play.
Given the pressure on a number of senior players going into the contest, Sky Cricket expert Botham says the experienced men led the way for the emerging talents, such as Moeen Ali, Gary Ballance and Joe Root to shine.
“England were awful at Lord’s. It was one of the worst performances I’ve ever seen from an England team, considering they won the toss, had a great pitch to bowl on and got it all wrong,” he said.
“But they’ve come here and I don’t think they’ve lost a session. They’ve been absolutely magnificent throughout.
“The biggest thing that will please the management is that the senior players - James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Cook and Ian Bell - have all stepped up to the plate.
“That takes all the pressure off and then you get the other guys like Ballance and Root coming in with his little cameo and Moeen getting his six wickets.
“It couldn’t happen at a better time because they must have been bitterly disappointed after Lord’s. We were all angry with what we’d seen after months of it. But they’ve turned the corner.”
The victory, coupled with two half-centuries, will significantly ease the pressure on England captain Alastair Cook and Nasser Hussain reckons the opener has shown what a key ingredient he is to the success of the national team.
While Cook won credit for his captaincy at the Ageas Bowl, Hussain says his return to run-scoring form is even more important for England.
“Cook’s had a really good week – and that comes from his decision at the toss, being brave with his batting,” said Hussain, referring to Cook’s election to bat first, despite the pressure on him to make a score.
“He wasn’t at his fluent best all the way through and he’s still got areas to work on – and he was in the nets this morning working on this new technique of getting forward – but he’s never lost his ability of playing spin and he put that away and he put away the ball when they started to bowl in areas he liked, too.
“It’s a massive bonus for England if he can go back to scoring runs because a lot of their problems will be solved. It’s more important he’s getting runs than his captaincy. That stabilises the whole team. Cook getting runs is the most important thing to this England side.”
Among a number of impressive individual English performances, Anderson, who took seven wickets in the match, including 5-53 first up, won particular praise from the pundits, as well as the Man of the Match award.
The Lancashire seamer had been below his best this summer, but, with the ball swinging in Southampton, he once again showed how deadly he can be in those conditions – and used the short ball wisely as well.
“Anderson got the award for his performance in that first innings and the way he turned the game around,” said Hussain.
“He sets people up from over the wicket, around the wicket and he gets good players out.
"It did swing for him – which was surprising because the pitch was so dry – but he used the short ball well as a surprise, too.
"We talk too often about England over doing the short ball but he and Broad pitched it up and used the short ball when they needed to.”