England v India: Edgbaston win one of the best I’ve seen – Agnew

England’s record pursuit against India was up there as one of the best wins I’ve seen in my time as a Test Match Special commentator.

India are such a strong team, so it’s quite staggering that England managed to make 378 – their highest pursuit in Tests and fourth of over 275 in a row this summer – and draw 2 -2 in the rearranged series.

There are some caveats as India were short on players, with captain Rohit Sharma unavailable after a positive Covid-19 test the week before the test, while fellow fly-half KL Rahul was out with a sports hernia.

They also had little preparation with just a four-day game against Leicestershire as a warm-up, with that test rearranged from September last year following Covid in the tour.

You have to put all of that into the debate to balance it out, but India has one of the best bowling attacks in the world and they have good batsmen.

That England can attack the way they did really makes it very remarkable.

They were able to put the pressure back on the bowlers and that puts the feat up there in the top bracket.

The Ashes’ 2019 victory at Headingley, where Ben Stokes crushed an unbeaten 135 as he and last man Jack Leach tied 76 for the final wicket, was obviously more dramatic than this.

But scoring that number of runs to win a Test match doesn’t happen too often – it was the ninth-greatest chase in the game’s history.

The fact that they managed to score the runs so easily and quickly – at 4.93+ runs – with just three fewer wickets is quite remarkable.

The pitch fully behaved and there were very few rogue deliveries, but the way England attacked the target was an extraordinary display of confidence.

That’s what strikes me about the way they’re playing right now.

They were a team that had absolutely no confidence in the winter – they were beaten 4-0 by Australia in the Ashes and lost 1-0 against West Indies in March – and it’s largely the same staff playing.

What Brendon McCullum did is exactly what we hoped he would do. He was able to recover these same players and erase recent painful memories.

They have all lost the fear of failure and there is no longer the feeling that defeat is inevitable.

He managed to do all that from a standstill and that’s what is exceptional.

As a player, when you feel you have the support of the coach, the board and the managers – and you know you’re not going to be let down for playing this way – it unlocks your attacking potential. It’s very exciting.

We saw it with the way fly-half Alex Lees played – he surprised me. He wouldn’t normally play a free-flowing four or five-day attacking game.

To see him charge the third ball into the field and launch Mohammed Shami into the middle of the wicket for four and then attack Ravindra Jadeja, who was playing hard, his approach typifies the change in attitude.

As a result, Zak Crawley was able to take his time and he definitely took advantage of it.

Interestingly, the chase was essentially a run-a-ball with the exception of the third 50, in which England scored closer to a run every two balls.

It was when Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow first came together after England lost three wickets in two runs and it showed the need, even with the way they play, to take your time and integrate. This removes all criticism. to be reckless.

England have now embarked on this new journey. When Stokes and McCullum first took over, it was about stopping this huge tanker drifting out of control in the English Channel – they had to stop it, turn it around and steer it in the right direction . They did more than that – it’s thorough, which is great.

It won’t always be like this, they’re going to have to adapt, and I’m sure they will.

I expect England to turn up for the three-Test series against South Africa in August, choose the same team and move on.

They will expect to treat them exactly the same.

Jonathan Agnew was talking to BBC Sport’s Callum Matthews.

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