Within just a few weeks of talk concerning Alastair Cook resigning as England captain, he has led his side to a 2-1 series lead over India following an innings and 54-run win in the Fourth Test at Old Trafford.
For the second time in the game, the Indian batting line-up self-destructed, but this time England were without the services of Stuart Broad in the field.
Broad – who took 6-25 in the first innings – took a rising ball to the face when batting, which forced him to retire hurt as he required stitches on his nose.
In his absence, Moeen Ali once again stepped to centre stage, taking 4-39, and receiving strong support from James Anderson (2-18) as India were all out for 161 in their second innings.
England began the day building on an overnight lead of 85, with Joe Root and Jos Buttler at the crease. It wasn’t long before the Yorkshireman achieved his third consecutive
half-century of the series.
The arrival of the new ball helped the Indian seamers, and it wasn’t long before the first chance of the day fashioned itself for the tourists. Buttler got a leading edge to gully, but was dropped by Virat Kohli, much to the demise of Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
The wicketkeeper – playing in just his second Test match – then received another reprieve when his opposite number, MS Dhoni, fumbled a run-out opportunity.
But the Lancashire keeper made it to 50 on his home ground with a fine back-foot drive.
England were going along nicely and extending their first innings lead with every over that
passed. However, a 134-run stand was finally brought to an end when Pankaj Singh claimed his maiden Test wicket.
The tall seamer returned unfortunate match figures of 0-179 in the Third Test at the Ageas
Bowl, but was finally rewarded for his efforts when Root (77) gloved him to Dhoni.
Just like a London bus, Singh soon had a second wicket. This time it was Buttler who was removed for 70 as the free-scoring number seven was undone by a deceptively slower
ball, and picked out Cheteshwar Pujara at mid off.
Broad then arrived at the crease, but his stay was short-lived, as an edge flicked the ball up and his the 28-year-old square on the nose, squeezing between the grille and peak
of his helmet.
The left-hander smashed Varun Aaron for consecutive sixes immediately before taking one in the face. He had to retire hurt, requiring stitches, and wouldn’t return to the field for the rest of the day.
Woakes (26*) and Anderson (11) added more runs to carry England to 367-9 by the time that Anderson was trapped lbw by Ravindra Jadeja. A lead of 215 put Alastair Cook’s
side in a strong position with still two and a half days left to play.
Wicket for Woakes
With Broad out of action, Woakes was entrusted to partner Anderson with the new ball. And it wasn’t long before he repaid the faith shown in him by captain Cook.
The Warwickshire seamer had Murali Vijay dismissed lbw for 18, but it was the removal of Gautam Gambhir (18), which sparked a collapse similar to that experienced by India in
the first innings.
The left-handed opener failed to get his hands out the way in time to avoid gloving an Anderson delivery to Buttler. That made the score 53-2.
Another wicket was to fall with the very next delivery. Starting a new over, Moeen Ali found some turn from outside off stump to undo Pujara (17).
The Indian implosion continued with the fall of Ajinkya Rahane. One of Dhoni’s most reliable sources of runs was caught and bowled by Ali for just 1. A tame effort was knocked back to the bowler, which could be likened to what could be witnessed during a catching practice warm-up.
It seemed as though there was a revolving door at the crease, with Virat Kohli (7) also failing to offer any resistance in the middle. He became Anderson’s second victim of the
afternoon when he edged to Ian Bell at second slip.
Coming from around the wicket, Ali soon displaced Jadeja for 4, and India were 66-6 – still trailing their opponents by 149.
Delaying the inevitable
Dhoni (27) and Ravichandran Ashwin held up the England assault to some extent, putting on 39 for the seventh wicket, but the home side were edging closer and closer to a 2-1 series lead.
The Indian skipper was sent packing to the pavilion by a wondrous Gary Ballance catch at mid-wicket. Ali revelled as his figures moved to 4-21 for the day, and India were 105-7.
Ashwin continued unmoved in the middle, echoing the stubborn resistance he showed for his 40 on day one.
For someone initially picked purely on batting ability, Ali wasn’t finished exhibiting his all-round cricketing credentials. In addition to his four wickets, the Worcestershire man
then ran out Kumar for 10 to leave the tourists reeling and staring at defeat.
After some troubling times with the ball, Jordan finally got it right bowling to the tail. A bouncer to Varun Aaron (9) resulted in Buttler claiming his second dismissal of the
India were still 54 runs shy of enforcing England to bat again, but that eventuality was irrelevant when Singh went with the very next ball. Unfortunately for Jordan – who clean
bowler the number 11 – there would be no hat-trick ball to follow, as England won by an innings and 54 runs.
A 2-1 series lead will be taken to the final Test at the Oval next week. This result, and the subsequent mood in the England camp, just goes to show how quickly fortunes can turn
around in sport.
Cook’s side now don’t seem capable of going almost a year with a Test match victory.