Indians notch up emphatic win
Ojha, Pujara sparkle as Dhoni’s men thump England by nine wickets to go 1-0 up in series
England’s gutsy fight back on day four had given a certain amount of ambiguity to the proceedings of the final day. But in the end, it proved only to be a minor stumbling block as India romped to a nine-wicket win and a 1-0 lead in the four-match Test series at the Motera here on Monday.
Indians may have entered the final day of the first Test with some uneasiness in their minds after England, following-on, amassed 340 for five for a 10-run lead at the end of the fourth day.
But the Indian bowlers regained their lost sting this morning to skittle out the visitors for 406, and then Virender Sehwag and Cheteshwar Pujara, who opened in the absence of Gautam Gambhir, cobbled together a 57-run stand as MS Dhoni’s men went past the 77-run target in less than an hour after lunch.
The chase was done in a canter, but the Indians needed all their will and guile in the first session to winkle out two overnight batsmen – Alastair Cook and Matt Prior. The way Cook and Prior started the day indicated another long stint for the Indians under the harsh Ahmedabad sun, and even a few deliveries that shot past their ankle didn’t bother the English duo.
They seemed focused on carrying England as close as possible to safe shores. Dhoni started the day with pace at one end and spin at the other, but Zaheer Khan, though probing, and Ojha, on the coin always, failed to unsettle them, even though they managed to limit the batsmen’s scoring chances.
A double hundred for Cook, and a hundred for Prior were very much within the realm of possible at that juncture, but Ojha, who was given an extended first spell by Dhoni, fetched the big breakthrough, dismissing Prior.
The English wicketkeeper batsman, who missed the hundred by just nine runs, couldn’t control a defensive push as the ball ballooned back to Ojha, who had little trouble in completing a caught and bowled chance. It also signalled the end of a remarkable partnership, 157 runs off 60.4 overs that frustrated the home side.
India had to wait 10 overs for the first wicket of the day, but once they got it, they were all over England. Cook was the next to depart.
Ojha managed to sneak one through the England’s captain’s watertight defence, and the ball rattled stumps after taking a deflection from his hind-leg pads, ending Cook’s extraordinary innings of 176 that had consumed 560 minutes and 374 balls. Ojha and the entire Indian team was elated to see the back of a man who baulked them for more than a day, and the rest were easy meat for the bowlers. Perhaps, in his excitement Ojha gave a rather intense sent-off to Stuart Broad, and it required the intervention of umpires to calm things down.
Once Ashwin, who was quite unfortunate not to get more than one wicket, castled Graeme Swann and Zaheer Khan dismissed Tim Bresnan to bring curtains to the England second innings, India were required to chase a sub-100 total.
Sehwag and Pujara went off the blocks in breakneck fashion, and, for a change, it was the younger batsman who made all the running. The home lad exhibited some delectable drives through covers, and muscular pulls against all comers as India raced to the tape.
Sehwag, who welcomed left-arm spinner Samit Patel with a six, tried for an encore against Swann, but he couldn’t clear Kevin Pietersen in the deep, also robbing India a chance to record a 10-wicket victory. But it hardly mattered as the aroma of victory that enveloped the Indian camp along with Virat Kohli’s straight drive off Swann might have healed a lot of old wounds.
England will take a lot of confidence from that big effort in their second innings, but only one team will enter the Wankhede stadium with swagger on Friday.