India suffered a crushing, mortifying defeat in the second Test at Trent Bridge, both the manner and the magnitude (319 runs) ill-befitting a team ranked No. 1.
Asked to bat five sessions and a bit, the batsmen were roughed up by a disciplined, bruising performance from England’s seamers, who used their height and their strength forcefully.
There were pockets of resistance — Sachin Tendulkar’s 56, Harbhajan Singh’s 46, Praveen Kumar’s 25 — but they merely delayed the inevitable. England took a 2-0 lead, Tim Bresnan adding to his second-innings 90 with five wickets.
India has a formidable task ahead of it in the two remaining Tests, but there is time yet to pursue that line of thought.
The immediate need is an account of Monday, the fourth day of what had shaped to be an enthralling contest before ending anti-climactically.
Stuart Broad began England’s victory charge with an impeccable delivery to Rahul Dravid. The angle of the delivery — it was directed from wide of the crease into the right-hander — and the movement off the wicket — it straightened after pitching on the seam — complemented the three-quarter length.
Dravid’s hands flicked out like a switchblade; the thin edge was taken by the ‘keeper.
V.V.S. Laxman fell in the second over after lunch, to another magnificent delivery. James Anderson produced an in-swinging leg-cutter — the action of the wrist and fingers can sometimes conjure this magic ball (as it can, the out-swinging off-cutter), especially if the fingers drag down the side of the ball.
Laxman’s off-stump was violently unearthed.
Bresnan, who had enjoyed his time batting earlier in the day, then got two wickets with two wickedly directed bouncers.
Abhinav Mukund might have narrowly escaped a king pair (it was Bresnan who put the catch down at second slip, a difficult chance), but he had no chance against a short ball of considerable pace that seamed across him. The ball looped to slip, bringing to memory the young opener’s dismissals in the West Indies.
Suresh Raina was caught between ducking, swaying, and pulling in the first innings. He chose valour in the second (or fool hardiness, depending on how you see the world). He had no control of the hook stroke: he didn’t play the ball; the ball played him. The top-edged hook travelled straight to fine-leg.
Bresnan also had Yuvraj Singh in trouble with the short ball, hitting the left-hander’s fingers with a particularly nasty one. Broad smashed Yuvraj’s elbow once, after the batsman had advanced!
Yuvraj looked to be walking off (perhaps he thought it was tea); eventually he turned and shook his head, and England’s review of a caught-behind decision was of no avail.
Bresnan eventually overwhelmed Yuvraj, having him well caught at short-leg with a lifter.
The next ball found M.S. Dhoni offering no stroke; because the seam had been scrambled, swing, whatever little there was, had been turned off. The ‘lbw’ decision was fairly straightforward for Asad Rauf, who’s had an excellent two Tests.
At the other end, Tendulkar appeared to be batting in another match. When the ball was pitched up, it was driven surely, majestically.
When it was short, it was ducked under. A pity none of his mates, barring Harbhajan, wanted to hang around for the master-class. It ended when his bete noire, Anderson, trapped him ‘lbw’ with a dramatic break-back.
The distressing batting performance followed an embattled bowling effort — England piled on the pain on Monday morning, continuing Sunday’s charge. Matt Prior (73) feathered one behind, but Bresnan and Broad (44) plundered a tired attack.
There are few more exhausting things for a bowler than contending with a line-up that bats deep — and bats deep convincingly, the lower-order men playing with a batsman’s judgment and repertoire.
For Ishant Sharma and Praveen Kumar, who’ve bowled more than 210 overs between them in less than two weeks’ time, it was an effort just to run up.
Harbhajan, who it’s learnt is struggling with a stomach muscle injury, didn’t bowl, and Yuvraj and Raina’s part-time offerings were — as Shane Warne suggested on commentary — as inviting as a bowl of Caesar salad and a side of fries.
Substitute Wriddhiman Saha sparked a moment of fielding brilliance to run Broad out; Praveen got another to bounce off a length to end Bresnan’s stay: it mattered little, for the Test was long gone by then.
England — 1st innings: 221.
India — 1st innings: 288.
England — 2nd innings: A. Strauss c Dhoni b Sreesanth 16 (52b, 1×4), A. Cook c Yuvraj b Ishant 5 (11b, 1×4), I. Bell c Laxman b Yuvraj 159 (206b, 24×4), K. Pietersen c Dhoni b Sreesanth 63 (120b,7×4), E. Morgan c Dhoni b Praveen 70 (88b, 8×4, 1×6), M. Prior c Dhoni b Praveen 73 (60b, 10×4, 1×6), J. Trott c Dravid b Praveen 2 (10b), T. Bresnan c Dravid b Praveen 90 (118b, 17×4), S. Broad (run out) 44 (32b, 5×4, 2×6), G. Swann c (sub, Saha) b Ishant 3 (12b), J. Anderson (not out) 1 (15b); Extras (b-9, lb-5, w-2, nb-2): 18; Total (in 120.2 overs): 544.
Fall of wickets: 1-6 (Cook), 2-57 (Strauss), 3-219 (Pietersen), 4-323 (Bell), 5-329 (Morgan), 6-339 (Trott), 7-458 (Prior), 8-540 (Broad), 9-540 (Bresnan).
India bowling: Praveen 36-5-124-4, Ishant 29.2-4-131-2, Sreesanth 27-5-135-2, Yuvraj 11-0-51-1, Harbhajan 9-1-47-0, Raina 8-0-42-0.
India — 2nd innings: A. Mukund c Strauss b Bresnan 3 (41b), R. Dravid c Prior b Broad 6 (12b, 1×4), V.V.S. Laxman b Anderson 4 (7b, 1×4), S. Tendulkar lbw b Anderson 56 (86b, 8×4), S. Raina c sub b Bresnan 1 (5b), Yuvraj c Cook b Bresnan 8 (32b, 1×4), M.S. Dhoni lbw b Bresnan 0 (1b), Harbhajan c sub b Bresnan 46 (44b, 8×4, 1×6), Praveen b Anderson 25 (25b, 5×4), Ishant (not out) 8 (25b), Sreesanth b Broad 0 (8b); Extras (b-1): 1; Total (in 47.4 overs): 158.
Fall of wickets: 1-6 (Dravid), 2-13 (Laxman), 3-31 (Abhinav), 4-37(Raina), 5-55 (Yuvraj), 6-55 (Dhoni), 7-107 (Tendulkar), 8-129 (Harbhajan), 9-153 (Praveen), 10-158 (Sreesanth).
England bowling: Anderson 17-3-51-3, Broad 14.4-5-30-2, Bresnan 12-2-48-5, Swann 3-0-21-0, Pietersen 1-0-7-0.
Man of the Match: Stuart Broad.