Dubai: India came real close to emulating Bradman’s ‘Invincibles’ of rallying to win a series in England after being 2-0 down before going down by 60 runs in the fourth Test at Ageas Bowl in Southampton on Sunday evening. England ensured themselves of the series with a 3-1 margin, with the fifth and final Test now a dead rubber at The Kennington Oval from September 7.
There were enough reasons for the Indian fans to hope that they can buck the trend — which showed they have scored 200-plus in their second innings only thrice to win a Test match outside the subcontinent.
A dry and worn out pitch suggested that they have quite a battle on their hands with Moeen Ali and Adel Rashid in the opponents’ camp, but it was the Old Firm of James Anderson and Stuart Broad who dealt the first blow when they removed openers Lokesh Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan and N0. 3 Cheteshwar Pujara in the first nine overs to reduce them to 22 to three.
Skipper Virat Kohli and deputy Ajinkya Rahane then dug deep to stitch together a century partnership, but Kohli’s departure for a resilient 58 shortly before tea once again tilted the scales in favour of England. Playing forward to Ali, the ball bounced and spun off his glove and into the grateful hands of Alastair Cook at short leg, who seconds earlier had put down a much harder chance.
At a personal level, it was surely a series of redemption for arguably the best batsman in the world today. The nightmarish England tour of 2014, where he scraped together 134 runs from four Tests, was banished with authoritative and classy efforts of 149, 51 (Birmingham), 23,17 (Lord’s), 97, 103 (Trent Bridge) and 46,58 (Southampton). There could be more such efforts in store at The Oval, but that would not make amends for what could have been a historic series win.
Rahane, who was 44 not out at tea, fell soon after tea and the Indian lower order could not hold fort once Ben Stokes and the promising Sam Curran came back into attack. Man of the Match Moeen claimed the wicket of Rahane (51) and ended with figures of four for 71, having bagged five wickets in India’s first innings. Ravichandran Ashwin blazed away for a spirited 25 to keep England waiting before Curran finished it off by trapping him lbw.
India had wrapped up England’s second innings for the addition of only 11 runs to leave an absorbing Test balanced on a knife edge but a superb opening spell by Anderson and Broad left their hopes in tatters. It could have been even worse for India with Kohli surviving an England review after being rapped on the pads by Moeen.
It took only until the first ball of the third over in the Indian innings to underline just how difficult their task was when a full-length Broad delivery kept low and flattened KL Rahul’s off stump.
Anderson then sent Cheteshwar Pujara, whose century helped India post a small first-innings lead, back to the pavilion after rapping him on the back thigh with an inswinger.
Opener Shikhar Dhawan struck three boundaries but never looked comfortable against England’s high-calibre seamers and he fell for 17 in Anderson’s next over, thick-edging to Ben Stokes at gully after being squared up by a beauty.
— With inputs from agencies