Ruthless England claim second test
ENGLAND swept aside India with a relentless brand of cricket that bore all the distinguishing features of champions down the years, they won the second Test by 319 runs.
In the morning England batted their opponents to a standstill and in the afternoon they bowled them into the ground. It was a titanic exhibition of all the components that make up the game and England were masters of them all.
ENGLAND 221 & 544
As for India, they began this tour barely a fortnight ago ranked as the world’s top side. It is a billing they have not come close to matching, or been allowed to match, and questions can be asked about their preparation, fitness and willingness.
On every possible level England have been superior and thoroughly deserve their 2-0 lead. To have won this match by such a margin - their largest victory in terms of runs against these opponents - after being 124 for eight on the first afternoon when conditions conspired against them, is a remarkable feat.
With two matches to play the series is not yet won but India have only eight days and a two-day match against Northamptonshire before they must again face the rampant side that seek their crown. They will be desperate to ensure that their opening batsman, Virender Sehwag, who is due to join the tour today, and their opening bowler, Zaheer Khan, whose hamstring injury is responding to treatment, are fit. Without them they have looked insipid and uninspired.
The player of the day if not the match was Tim Bresnan, who was playing only because of injury to Chris Tremlett. He scored a blazing 90, which took England to a total of 544 before lunch, and after it took 5 for 48 which helped to ensure India were dismissed for 158, contributions of brio and conviction. He is the only Englishman to have appeared on the winning side in the first eight Tests of his career.
Stuart Broad won the match award for having dragged England out of the mire last Friday and embellished that with a hat-trick on Saturday. He was hardly less involved as the push for victory entered the finishing straight and it was entirely appropriate that he should bring the Test to its conclusion by bowling India’s last man, Sree Sreesanth, with a yorker at 5.25pm. It is the first time that two England players (Broad and Bresnan) have scored more than 100 runs and both taken at least seven wickets in the same match.
England brought a significant advantage of 374 runs to the ground on the fourth morning but were far from sated. Although they lost Matt Prior early when he still had an outside chance of scoring England’s fastest century, the gallop continued.
India were hopeless in the field. Without the bowling services of Harbhajan Singh, who had sustained a stomach strain that prevented him completing his action, they had nobody who could give them a semblance of control.
Not that there was anything in the pitch for spin but the tourists’ seamers were too slow, too wayward or both. Their fielding ran the whole gamut from poor to unacceptable and it was not only because England were batting with such aggression.
Bresnan and Broad ran the show with considerable gusto. Bresnan has never had much chance to show his batting prowess in England, though he made 91 against Bangladesh in Dhaka last year.
He stands tall at the crease, likes to drive and uses his feet firmly. Now he has two Test nineties to his name without a hundred, this one coming in 118 balls with 17 crunching fours, rather different from the 261 balls which his Dhaka innings spanned.
The two shared a partnership of 119 after Jonathan Trott came and went. Broad, within sight of his second fifty of the match, was run out going for a sharp single, Bresnan was ninth out with a hundred for the taking. The fact that the ball leapt to take the shoulder of the bat before looping to gully might have eased his displeasure.
Before lunch, England had made inroads. And it was the priceless wicket of Rahul Dravid that came their way. They might have had Abhinav Mukund first ball for the second time in the match but Bresnan spilled the chance moving high to his right.
Dravid was ample compensation as he pushed at one outside off which moved away a touch and edged faintly to Prior. That was already the wicket that mattered above all and in the early part of the afternoon more wickets followed with a clatter.
The first to depart was VVS Laxman, bowled by a beauty from James Anderson whose line he misjudged. Quite why he stood there with the off stump having cartwheeled halfway to the pavilion seemed mysterious. Perhaps he was admiring the view. There really is nothing like it for a fast bowler.
Without holding up England much longer, Mukund contorted himself into trying to deal with a Bresnan bouncer and was caught at slip. Suresh Raina hooked to long leg where the substitute Scott Elstone, on for Trott whose shoulder was still sore, took the first of his two catches.
There was a fascinating interlude involving Yuvraj Singh who was hit on the hand by a short ball and who was targeted thereafter. He had several lucky escapes when England made a ceremony out of placing Alastair Cook at square, close slip which necessitated a change into protective equipment.
It worked because to the first ball with Cook in position Yuvraj fended off another bouncer and was caught there. MS Dhoni, the India captain, who had an eminently forgettable match as batsman and wicketkeeper, fatally shouldered arms to his first ball and was lbw. Bresnan missed his hat-trick by bowling a full toss which went for four.
Watching as the innings was dismantled piece by piece was Sachin Tendulkar who played delectably for a while. It seemed, as he cruised past 50, that he might score his hundredth international hundred in a losing cause but he too shouldered arms and was leg before to Anderson, who has now taken his wicket seven times in Tests.
There was some late-order defiance of the prolonging-the-inevitable kind after that, but the inevitable came soon enough.