In the end, it was a stroll. India did not have to break a sweat on the final day as England’s dogged resistance faded in face of mounting pressure, adverse conditions and difficult situation. The pressure to save the Test was too much for the last five English batsmen, including Alastair Cook, the tragic hero of the game.
The nine-wicket Indian victory, however, was a culmination of a 10-hour toil on the field. Indian bowlers had to summon all their reserves to bowl out England twice on a pitch that became progressively slow and flat. As MS Dhoni said: “It was not an easy win”, the turn of events on the final day notwithstanding.
Dhoni was furious with the Motera wicket that stretched his team, bowlers in particular. “I don’t want to look at that pitch again,” the Indian skipper said. He wants a strip that produces turn from the very first day, very first session and very first over. “So that the toss would not be a big factor,” Dhoni said, justifying the demand.
It’s really strange that the Indian skipper looks for easy ways to win the series. Sure, he has got every right to ask for the wicket he wants but you don’t look for lifts when you want to scale the Everest. There are no shortcuts in international cricket.
On Monday afternoon, India raced to the target of 77 set by England after they were bowled out for 406. Virender Sehwag and Cheteshwar Pujara showed scant regard for the English bowlers. Sehwag smashed 25 in no time before getting out but Pujara continued from where he left in the first innings. They knocked off the target in 51 minutes and 15.3 overs.
Earlier in the morning, the home team polished off the England batting line-up without much difficulty. The visitors wilted after showing heart for fight on Day Four. After their meek surrender in the first innings, they would have realised that they were forced into a chamber of death from where there was no escape. A lead of 330 was not a river that can be swum through. It was an ocean.
Dhoni chose the mixed bag of pace-spin combination and it made life more miserable for the batsmen. Matt Prior showed the technique that can counter the Indian bowlers in these conditions but did not have the mental steel to bat for so much time. He offered a tame return catch to Pragyan Ojha, missing his century by nine runs.
Cook (176, 556m, 374b, 21x4) had all the mental toughness to stand up to the pressure but he was not prepared for accidents. When you bat for more than nine hours, there would be an odd delivery that would misbehave. He succumbed to an Ojha delivery that spun sharply and stayed unplayably low.
Despite the Indian win, the Test would be remembered for Cook, who came out with a magnum opus that should have ended on a winning note.
After Cook’s exit, it was a matter of time before the Indians ran through the remaining batsmen. They were all out for 406, the end coming just seven minutes before lunch but not before Graeme Swann got bowled playing a reverse sweep. Under the circumstances, it was a cricketing sin.
Among Indian bowlers, Ojha provided two important breakthroughs in the morning. He finished with four wickets for a Test haul of nine for 165. The spinners claimed 13 wickets but Dhoni said the pacers’ contribution was no less significant.