‘We didn’t expect England to win’

Former cricketer Michael Atherton has said he does not want to criticize England for the series loss against India. Ben Stokes & Co. have faced severe criticism from several quarters for conceding the five-match series.

While England started their tour of India with an impressive 28-run loss, they could not capitalize on it. India bounced back in style to win the next three Tests and clinched the series with a match remaining. The Rohit Sharma-led side beat the visitors by five wickets in the fourth Test to take an unassailable 3-1 lead in the series.

Several former England cricketers have criticized the Ben Stokes-led team, saying that they prioritized their Bazball approach over winning the Test. However, Michael Atherton said that he does not want to be critical of the English side while also stating that not many expected England to beat India in their own backyard. He also said that the series had been competitive before saying that India were just too good in the end.

“I don’t feel too strongly about being too critical of England. It’s a difficult place to come and win, obviously, with nobody able to do so since 2012/13.

“When we were talking about the series before a ball was sent down then I don’t think we expected England to win here, given the relative strength of the spin attack. I feel that it has been a competitive series. I feel like India know they’ve been in the tussle, but in the end they were just too good in home conditions,” Michael Atherton told Sky Sports.

Michael Atherton praises England spinners:

Speaking further, Michael Atherton praised England’s spinners for their performance in the series. He said that young spinners like Shoaib Bashir and Tom Hartley’s promising performances are a great sign for English cricket. With 20 wickets, Hartley is currently the leading wicket-taker in the series while Bashir has picked up 12 wickets in two Tests including a five-wicket haul in the fourth Test.

“England’s spinners were really good. Shoaib Bashir now has more Test wickets than he had first-class wickets coming into this tour and I thought he bowled excellently.

“I think if you said before the series began that two young spinners, who hadn’t played a Test match and are not really first choice for their counties, would have put performances in like that then I think they would have taken that. It could conceivably be 4-0 to India because they will feel they should have won that first game in Hyderabad and probably ought to have done,” said Michael Atherton.

With the series now done and dusted, England will be aiming to end their tour of India on a high by winning the fifth and final Test. India, on the other hand, will be looking to extend their winning run and strengthen their position in the ICC World Test Championship points table. The last Test is scheduled to be played from March  7 in Dharamsala.

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