Mauled at Manchester

Indian batsmen crumble as England win by an innings & 54 runs to take 2-1 lead

Mauled at Manchester

Hurricane Bertha, according to weathermen, was expected to hit Manchester on Sunday. But a set of rampant English bowlers brought destruction upon India hours earlier, pushing them to a heavy innings and 54-run defeat in the fourth Test.

It was a massively embarrassing result for the visitors as England won inside just three days and their second innings lasted just three hours and 21 minutes. Once England declared their first innings closed at 367 all out to build a formidable lead of 215 runs, India had the task of surviving just over a session on the day to extend their fight. It wasn’t a tough one with sun shining the brightest in days and the pitch playing true at Old Trafford.

But their top-order capitulated for the second time in this Test, getting rolled over for 161. There was no hint of the brewing storm when they went to tea at 33, losing M Vijay. Chris Woakes trapped him in front.

A surreal evening session started in the sixth over after tea with the wicket of Gautam Gambhir. The left-handed opener couldn’t take his hands away from a James Anderson delivery that bounced steeply and brushed his gloves en route Jos Buttler behind the stumps. Cheteshwar Pujara was a tad unlucky to be given out leg before to off-spinner Moeen Ali as the batsman had taken a giant stride forward.

But rest of the batsmen had no such excuses to give as they fell to their own indiscretions and the meticulousness of English bowlers. Ajinkya Rahane gave a simple loopy return catch to Ali and Ravindra Jadeja seemed irritated to be out in the middle so early. After four minutes of swing-and-hit stay, Jadeja edged Ali to Chris Jordan to slip to take the long walk back to the hut.

Anderson has been Kohli’s nightmare in this series. The local lad caused another sleepless night for Kohli with a delivery that perfectly curled away from him and nestled in the hands of Ian Bell at second slip after taking a healthy edge. Skipper Mahednra Singh Dhoni played a counterattacking innings but Garry Ballance’s excellent catch mid-wicket off Ali ended his tenure as India slid irreversibly towards an innings defeat.

The absence of injured Stuart Broad did nothing to reduce the strike power of England attack, and once again Ali haunted them with a four-wicket haul. The Birmingham man had taken six wickets at the Ageas Bowl last week to wreck India, and he slipped into the role of an enforcer again here.

Ali neither bowls viciously spinning deliveries nor mesmerising doosras or carom balls. His method is simple, land the ball at lengths that can cause discomfort for batsmen and spin it in the necessary measures. His strategy had a wonderful outcome as the Indians caught in a double mind as whether to attack or defend against him. He, now, has 19 wickets in this series, second only behind Anderson (21).

But the genesis of this English surge was in the 134-run alliance between Buttler and Joe Root for the seventh wicket. Root, who was 48 overnight, moved past his 50 with a couple off Pankaj, continuing his profitable summer.

At the other end, Buttler too was in fine fettle, but his innings could have come to an end when he was on 44. However, Dhoni made a mess of gathering Varun Aaron’s throw from the deep as Buttler tried to scamper back home for a second. Before that Kohli added another chapter to the saga of dropped catches this series, spilling Buttler’s edge off Bhuvneshwar at gully.

Pankaj Singh snapped the swelling alliance, ousting Root. It was the Indian pacer’s maiden Test wicket and came after a prolonged toil. Spread over two Tests, Pankaj had bowled 415 deliveries and conceded 274 runs, searching in vain for a wicket. But on this day, luck shone on him. Soon, he added the scalp of Buttler, deceiving him with a 116.2 kmph slow ball.

But those were only moments of personal satisfaction as England surged ahead like an irresistible tidal wave. The only sore note for them was Broad’s nasal bridge injury, but they never needed him on this day.

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