Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen were two of England's best performers with the bat - especially in Mumbai (Image | S. Subramanium via the Hindu Business Times)

Leading lights | Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen were two of England’s best performers with the bat, especially in Mumbai. (Image | S. Subramanium via Hindu Business Times)

India is not supposed to be a happy hunting ground for the England cricket team.

The slow, dusty wickets and near-Equatorial climate have caused England no end of problems in recent tours, and the Three Lions were without a Test series win in India in 25 years until the events of the past few weeks.

Now, not only have Alistair Cook‘s side delivered Test triumph, but a seriously depleted Twenty20 side have made a statement ahead of the build-up to the South Africa series next summer.

After the disastrous first outing in Ahmedabad, England were rightly ruthless in switching their game plan to bring in Monty Panesar as the second spinner.

Panesar changed the course of the tour, teaming with Graeme Swann to maintain relentless pressure on India’s top order and taking 11 wickets in the final Test in Nagpur.

Jimmy Anderson was the class of the seamers, as would be any fast bowler who manages 12 wickets in a four-Test series on the subcontinent.

England’s batsmen also displayed vast improvements following on from the Ahmedabad aberration. Cook, the only one to impress in the first Test, was outstanding, his epic stand with Kevin Pietersen in Mumbai perhaps the turning point of the entire series.

Behind him, Pietersen was back to his cavalier, aggressive best while Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell’s obstinate partnership in Nagpur defied the odds against hungry, if largely toothless, Indian bowling.

Arguably the greatest legacy of this tour will be that it has brought an end – for now, at least – to the Pietersen debacle which has hung over the England team since May, when the South Africa-born batsman initially announced his retirement from one-day and Twenty20 cricket.

Although he will not be England’s most important player for much longer (indeed it could be argued he isn’t now), the 32-year-old demonstrated his worth with a colossal 186 in Mumbai. It was his fifth hundred in twelve matches against India, and undoubtedly the most important.

For the vanquished hosts, of course, there will be less positivity from the series. India have endured a hard year in the Test format.

After their mauling by Australia last winter, where their 4-0 defeat down under included two defeats by an innings, the home series triumph over New Zealand had seemed a step in the right direction.

However, England’s win is a first home series defeat for India since the great Australian side of Ponting, Warne and McGrath sealed a 2-1 win in 2004/5, and just the third since England last achieved it – in 1984/5. Having won just six of their last 21 Tests, the BCCI must now look at coach Duncan Fletcher’s position with more concern.

Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann were deadly for England throughout the series, and the team's decision to go with an extra spinner after the loss in Ahmedabad was one of the defining moments of the series (Image | James Anderson via Twitter)

Standouts | Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann were deadly for England throughout, and the decision to go with an extra spinner after the loss in Ahmedabad was one of the defining moments of the series. (Image | Twitter)

There is, of course, still the ODI series to be played; that will start on January 11th, following straight on from India’s T20/ODI series with Pakistan which straddles the new year.

After England head home, though, India have just a month remaining before Australia arrive for their four-Test series, an important opportunity for Fletcher’s side to clear some ghosts from the closet.

Bowling, as mentioned, remains an issue for India, with reasonable economies masking their bowlers’ inability to consistently threaten wickets.

Only Pragyan Ojha (20 wickets) was a consistent threat, but the slow left-armer was also one of the most expensive in India’s attack.

India barely looked more convincing with the bat. After Virender Sehwag and Cheteshwan Pujara hit a century and a double-century respectively in the first innings in Ahmedabad, India suddenly and unexpectedly fell victim to their own greatest weapon – Swann and Panesar combining for 37 wickets in the series.

Pujara registered another century in the first innings at Mumbai, but it preceded one of the poorest displays in India’s recent history in the second innings. Only Gautam Gambhir’s 65 saved the team from total humiliation – Ravi Ashwin was the second highest scorer in that innings. He had 11.

The ICC Future Tours schedule lists India as touring England in the summer of 2014. It will be interesting to see where both sides have reached by that time, with England playing two Ashes series this year and India touring South Africa and New Zealand.

Another thing to watch out for will be whether Fletcher returns to the soil where he coached England so successfully between 1999 and 2007. Based on India’s current form, it seems unlikely.

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