Hunted and humiliated

England comprehensively outplayed India, with all its cricketing arms forming a wonderful bond. Gary Ballance’s cracking catch to dismiss Ajinkya Rahane in the visitor’s second dig was an apt example of this and for M. S. Dhoni, the minor consolation was that 1-3 was better than the 0-4 drubbing suffered during the 2011 tour! By K. C. Vijaya Kumar.

The Oval often whips up for the Indian fans, memories of B. S. Chandrasekhar’s six for 38 in 1971 and Sunil Gavaskar’s epic 221 in 1979. The leg-spinning wizard’s effort sealed the series for India, while the batting legend almost pulled off a victory.

Those lovely relapses into the past — of black and white pictures, of a gentler world, of India triumphing against all odds — have been sullied for now after M. S. Dhoni’s men collapsed twice in a span of three days, which tragically was the entire duration of the fifth and final Test against England.

If there was hope of a turn-around, it was dashed during those 62 hours when August dished out a medley of warm and wet days. India lost the match by an innings and 244 runs and England won the series 3-1. Truly, a far cry from the 1-0 peak India had attained at Lord’s.

The mascot from that second Test — Ishant Sharma — was back in the playing eleven, but even he couldn’t alter the visitor’s fortunes and the blame for that lies largely with the batsmen. The chronicle of a defeat foretold could be traced to the opening day when India was shot out for 148. That ghastly tumble was set in motion once Alastair Cook won the toss and elected to field, while the air was cold and the sky remained overcast.

In the first over, Gautam Gambhir revealed the scrambled mindset of most Indian batsmen. Shaping to play and then trying to leave at the last minute, he feathered an edge off James Anderson and on air, Geoffrey Boycott said: “It is rubbish.”

Stuart Broad then castled Cheteshwar Pujara and the rest, including an out-of-form Virat Kohli, to men like Murali Vijay and Ajinkya Rahane (the duo had started the series well), fell and the scoreboard was an anaemic 36 for five. It could have been worse, but Dhoni dished out a splendid rescue act — a fine 82 (140b, 15x4, 1x6). It was a knock that relied on patience, topped with nuggets of aggression. Sadly, there was no matching echo from the rest and England had won half the battle.

The host then did what it had written on its strategy board — out-bat India. The result was a weighty 486 and a handy lead of 338. Cook led the batting momentum initially with a 79, that was played in two parts — a fluent beginning and then a charmed life. If he lived up to his strengths with whips towards the leg-side and the cuts past point, he also revealed vulnerability around the off-stump, but Vijay and Rahane dropped him.

It may have not proved costly for India as Cook was soon nailed by Varun Aaron, but the others rallied on for England and the fight ebbed away from Dhoni’s men. Gary Ballance (64) in tandem with Cook and then Joe Root (149 n.o., 165b, 18x4, 1x6), Jos Buttler (45) and Broad (37) multiplied England’s joy and aggravated India’s pain. Root’s fifth Test ton gained speed and on the third day morning, there was a break-neck element to his momentum.

Well before India set out on its second innings, R. Ashwin said: “The pitch has flattened and we are looking at giving a solid effort one last time in this series.” The weather gods then moved in strange ways, granting moisture, shading the skies darker and again a perfect scenario emerged for England’s attack — ideal conditions with the added bonus of scoreboard-pressure.

What followed was an ignominious Indian second innings that wilted in 29.2 overs. None survived the pressure inflicted by the Anderson-Broad combine and just as the batsmen withered, Chris Jordan, like in the first innings, reaped the rewards (four for 18). Vijay and Gambhir fell with just nine on the board with the latter being a pale shadow of his glory days. The anxiety being evident in his run-out and with Pujara and Kohli too failing to leave a deep imprint, despite trying hard, India went into a free-fall that ended at a tragic 94.

England comprehensively outplayed India, with all its cricketing arms forming a wonderful bond. Ballance’s cracking catch to dismiss Rahane in the visitor’s second dig was an apt example of this and for Dhoni, the minor consolation was that 1-3 was better than the 0-4 drubbing suffered during the 2011 tour!

The scores

Fifth Test, The Oval, London, August 15 to 17. England won by an innings and 244 runs.

India – 1st innings: Murali Vijay c Root b Woakes 18, Gautam Gambhir c Buttler b Anderson 0, Cheteshwar Pujara b Broad 4, Virat Kohli lbw b Jordan 6, Ajinkya Rahane c&b Jordan 0, M. S. Dhoni c Woakes b Broad 82, Stuart Binny c Cook b Anderson 5, R. Ashwin c Root b Woakes 13, Bhuvneshwar Kumar c Buttler b Jordan 5, Varun Aaron c&b Woakes 1, Ishant Sharma (not out) 7; Extras (b-6, lb-1) 7. Total: 148.

Fall of wickets: 1-3, 2-10, 3-26, 4-28, 5-36, 6-44, 7-68, 8-79, 9-90.

England bowling: James Anderson 17-4-51-2, Stuart Broad 15.1-4-27-2, Chris Jordan 14-7-32-3, Chris Woakes 14-7-30-3, Moeen Ali 1-0-1-0.

England – 1st innings: Alastair Cook c Vijay b Aaron 79, Sam Robson b Aaron 37, Gary Ballance c Pujara b Ashwin 64, Ian Bell c Dhoni b Ishant 7, Joe Root (not out) 149, Moeen Ali b Ashwin 14, Jos Buttler c Ashwin b Ishant 45, Chris Woakes c Dhoni b Bhuvneshwar 0, Chris Jordan c Dhoni b Ishant 20, Stuart Broad c Kohli b Broad 37, James Anderson lbw b Ashwin 1; Extras (b-18, lb-3, nb-11, w-1) 33. Total: 486.

Fall of wickets: 1-66, 2-191, 3-201, 4-204, 5-229, 6-309, 7-318, 8-400, 9-463.

India bowling: Bhuvneshwar Kumar 24-3-86-1, Ishant Sharma 30-8-96-4,Varun Aaron 29-1-153-2, Stuart Binny 12-0-58-0, R. Ashwin 21.3-2-72-3.

India – 2nd innings: Murali Vijay lbw b Anderson 2, Gautam Gambhir run out 3, Cheteshwar Pujara c Buttler b Anderson 11, Virat Kohli c Cook b Jordan 20, Ajinkya Rahane c Ballance b Broad 4, M. S. Dhoni c Robson b Woakes 0, Stuart Binny (not out) 25, R. Ashwin c Bell b Jordan 7, Bhuvneshwar Kumar c Bell b Jordan 4, Varun Aaron (run out) 1, Ishant Sharma c Ali b Jordan 2; Extras (b-8, lb-6, w-1) 15. Total: 94.

Fall of wickets: 1-6, 2-9, 3-30, 4-54, 5-46, 6-62, 7-70, 8-74, 9-84.

England bowling: James Anderson 8-3-16-2, Stuart Broad 10-2-22-1, Chris Woakes 7-0-24-1, Chris Jordan 4.2-0-18-4.