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India v England: 'Hyderabad Heist shows England are unmissable'

Ben Stokes celebrates running out Ravindra Jadeja
Ben Stokes inspired England's victory with some sharp fielding and clever bowling changes

You just can't take your eyes off these blokes.

When you think they might finally go quietly into the night, they pour another drink. Next thing you know, there's a full-on rave going on in your front room.

Perhaps we should be used to England challenging our perceptions. They have spent almost two years under Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum subverting the genre of Test cricket.

New Zealand at Trent Bridge, India at Edgbaston, Pakistan in Rawalpindi and Australia at Headingley. Even in a one-run defeat by the Kiwis, the Wonder of Wellington felt like a win for us all.

Nothing can match this. Not just beating an India team who are almost unbeatable at home, but doing so with one spinner on one leg, one spinner who won't be first choice at his county next season, another who is not old enough to qualify for the national minimum wage and one more who wasn't even allowed into the country.

This was the Heist of Hyderabad, straight in at the top of the Stokes-McCullum canon and in the conversation for England's greatest overseas win of all time.

Only twice, anywhere in the world, have England managed to overturn a first-innings deficit more than the 190 runs they did here. One of them, at Headingley in 1981, set Ian Botham on his way to the House of Lords. For the other, Queen Victoria was on the throne.

This is not happening by accident, even if you are more likely to find this team on the golf course than in the nets.

New Zealander McCullum was one of the most innovative captains the game has ever seen, while Stokes started to form ideas of how Test cricket could be played differently while he was still in the ranks.

When England were training in Abu Dhabi, they put sand on the pitches to amp up the conditions they would face in India. To a man they look supremely fit, helped by the fact many have had a long break from playing, so have been at the mercy of the strength and conditioning coach.

The desire to make the team as comfortable as possible has led to a chef joining them in India. It was back on the T20 tour of Pakistan in 2022 that it dawned on England about the need to have someone preparing their food, bringing them in line with many other high-performance athletes.

It is a far cry from the infamous tour to India in 1993, when the England squad survived on tinned corned beef and naan bread.

But attention to detail off the field means nothing without the confidence to perform on it.

At the end of the first day of the first Test, with England seemingly on the back foot, opener Ben Duckett told anyone who would listen they were in a "strong position".

The next night, after a lot of hard yakka in the field, assistant coach Jeetan Patel said, without flinching, "nothing is impossible" with this team.

These are not empty words. Belief, positivity and putting a shift in are non-negotiables. When England make a move, it is it with the utmost certainty it will pay off. And if it doesn't pay off, they keep going until it does. Often they have had to roll with the punches, but every time they fall into a bucket of manure, they come up smelling of roses.

Losing Jonny Bairstow to injury led to the discovery of Harry Brook. Duckett thought his Test career was over, but was recalled and has a better average opening the batting than Alastair Cook. When Ben Foakes got ill before the Rawalpindi Test, Will Jacks made his Test debut and picked up six wickets. Later on the same tour Rehan Ahmed was made England's youngest male Test cricketer and took a five-wicket haul on his debut.

The list goes on. When Jack Leach was injured before the Ashes, England sent an SOS to Moeen Ali, not knowing he would eventually be the only possible to candidate to balance the team by batting at number three and acting as the frontline spinner.

Even now, with Leach hobbling around Hyderabad, England asked Joe Root to bowl more overs than he had ever done in a Test. He did a passable impression of Graeme Swann, with five wickets in the match.

There are strokes of genius, too. Never before had England gone into a Test with one specialist seamer, as England did with Mark Wood in Hyderabad.

A year ago, very few people would have had Tom Hartley on their 'England Test cricketers of 2024' bingo card, not least the man himself. But England had seen attributes in the left-arm spinner that could be of use in India.

After a struggle in the first innings that had a certain dim-witted writer mentioning the Curse of the Lancashire Spinner (sorry, Tom), Hartley was transformed into the second coming of Daniel Vettori. His 7-62 in the second innings are the best figures of any England spinner on Test debut for 91 years.

On top of that, a more established member of the England XI proved his class.

Before the second innings, Ollie Pope's highest score in nine attempts in India was 34. In the first innings, his score of one from 11 balls was the batting of a man who had been out for seven months with a dislocated shoulder.

What followed was one of the finest knocks ever played by an Englishman overseas, his 196 the fourth-highest second-innings score by any visiting batter in India. Rahul Dravid, no less, called it the best exhibition of sweeping and reverse-sweeping he had seen in these conditions.

Whereas India coach Dravid would have been sleeping soundly after two days of the Test, his in-tray is now starting to look congested.

Shubman Gill is all over the shop at number three and pace bowler Mohammed Siraj bowled only 11 overs in the match, like a man who had won a competition to spend a week with the India team.

Jadeja had not before conceded more than the 131 runs he shipped in England's second innings in a home Test and might have done his hamstring being run out as India slipped to defeat.

They are no doubt missing Virat Kohli, who will definitely sit out the second Test for personal reasons. Another important absence is Rishabh Pant, a destroyer of English spin in the past, who is recovering from a road accident.

England can improve. On another occasion, the three half-chances missed in the field will be more costly and their use of DRS was woeful, with five wrong calls out of five. Only two batters, Stokes in the first innings and Pope in the second, passed 50, despite plenty getting starts.

They will assess the fitness of Leach before the second Test starts in Vizag on Friday. If he doesn't make it, that could make room for James Anderson, who must have been licking his lips at the reverse swing found by Jasprit Bumrah.

This latest win extends England's reasonable record in India. Since the end of 2004, their total of five Test wins in this country is as many as the rest of the world put together.

On the other hand, they had this lead three years ago, only to be swept aside in the final three matches to lose 3-1.

"Before we started the game, I addressed the team about what great a two years we've had, and what we are going to do for the next two years," said Stokes.

"I feel that if we keep within the same modes of operation and mindsets around certain things, we will probably stand still and other teams may catch us.

"How are we going to get better, to keep propelling ourselves forward? It's not always going to happen but as long as we are doing the right things, we are giving ourselves the best chance."

Do not take your eyes off these blokes.