India kept the rain out of equation by producing yet another horrible batting performance to lose the fourth Test against England by an innings and 54 runs at Old Trafford, Manchester on Saturday. Trailing by 215 in their second innings, India once again surrendered meekly to Moeen Ali and were bowled out for 161. India didn't even last for 90 overs in their two innings combined in this Test and that's enough to explain their performance.
India came in to the Test losing 13 sessions in a row at Southampton and added three more the kitty here. But the first session of this Test almost sealed the fate of the visitors. From eight for no loss to eight for four, and there's little to fightback from India on a pitch which was supposed to be good for batting compared to Lord's and Southampton. In this match India made as many as three changes by resting the non-performers from the Southampton Test. Instead the team slumped to an abject surrender. There were issues everywhere in the batting right from the opening combination to the middle-order brittleness and the key batsman Virat Kohli's susceptibility. The historic Lord's win is certainly a distant dream now. If the Southampton defeat was embarrassing, this was nothing less than humiliation reviving memories of 2011.Day
Three began with India still focusing on restricting England's lead. But England's backbone in the middle-order Joe Root and Jos Buttler put up a commendable partnership of 134 runs for the seventh wicket. Of course India did allow them to get away by dropping a catch and missing an easy run-out. With that partnership, India's narrow chances of staging an unlikely comeback went down the drain. Apart from the flurry of wickets in the last session, a key moment of the day was the injury to Stuart Broad, who got a nasty hit on the bridge of the nose off a Varun Aaron bouncer. While he was away, England had managed to put on a lead of 215 runs, a sizable one to push India out of the match. But very few expected them to present the highlights of first innings once again. The first innings was memorable than the second thanks to a world record six ducks in a Test innings.
Gautam Gambhir, who replaced the out-of-form Shikhar Dhawan was hardly convincing. Murali Vijay, one of the few batsmen in the team considered to be in form was taken out easily. Cheteshwar Pujara and Kohli's early dismissals — a regular feature this series — had already signaled that there was no place to hide for them. It was one brain freeze situation as they had slipped from 53 for one to 66 for six. It was a matter of time that England completed the rout on Day Three itself and did it in style. Ravichandran Ashwin was India's star batsman in both innings with a 40 and unbeaten 46 but that wasn't the job he was supposed to do. The pitch had started to take a turn and the shoddy batting ensured that the twin spinners were never quite got any chance.
Moeen deserves a special mention for scripting both of England's victory. With 19 wickets, he is only behind Anderson (21) in the top wicket-taker's chart. More than the variations, it is his accuracy and the opposition's mistake of underestimating him which has allowed him to run riot. But the real hero of the Test was Broad who unfortunately wasn't present to pick the Man of the Match trophy. The six for 25 is what set up the victory.
For England though, this is the start of their resurgence. Having waited close to an year for an elusive Test win, this performance will boost their confidence to make rapid strides ahead. Their batting has made rapid strides. While Root has been the mainstay, Alastair Cook's return to form, consistency from Gary Ballance and Ian Bell has added more solidity to the team along with the impressive bowling. After the Lord's Test, Michael Atherton was speaking about Cook stepping down, on Saturday though it was a different atmosphere altogether as Cook couldn't stop smiling.
As for India, a five-Test series has shown their inexperience. Having lost 16 sessions in row, winning one and losing four more after that, the series is almost sealed going in to The Oval. Mentally, India look down and out and it would require some remarkable turnaround for this Indian team to script a comeback and level the series.
India 152 (MS Dhoni 71, Ravichandran Ashwin 40; Stuart Broad 6 for 25, James Anderson 3 for 46) & 161 (Ravichandran Ashwin 46*; Chris Woakes 4 for 39) lost to England 367 for 9 (Ian Bell 58, Joe Root 77, Jos Buttler 77; Varun Aaron 3 for 97, Bhuvneshwar Kumar 3 for 75) by innings and 54 runs.
Man of the Match: Stuart Broad