Hurricane Bertha? From England’s point of view, she can do her worst now. India were blown away before the dreadful forecast for Sunday could play any part in the fourth Test. A woeful batting display on the third afternoon, significantly worse than their opening-day effort because conditions were not as taxing, meant India subsided to 161 and handed England victory by an innings and 54 runs despite Stuart Broad being in hospital with a suspected broken nose and an ill James Anderson.
Given the way one corner of the Old Trafford outfield could not cope with the downpour yesterday, it was not beyond the realms of possibility that the final day could have been in doubt if the rain on Sunday had proved as bad as predicted. India made all the conjecture irrelevant with a performance that lacked stomach, fight and basic common sense: some shots, such as MS Dhoni’s swipe to midwicket, and the run-out of Bhuvneshwar Kumar suggested they were not even interested in trying to see if the weather could aid them. “We were not up to the mark,” Dhoni said at the presentation.
India lost nine wickets after tea, including one period of 5 for 13 in 29 balls, and it was not the swing, seam and pace that caused most havoc. Instead, Moeen Ali twirled and spun his way to 4 for 39, taking his series tally to 19, just when it appeared that England’s firepower could have been crucially diminished.
England were able to secure a three-day victory – their first over India since 1967 at Edgbaston – without the services of Broad in India’s second innings, after he had been forced to retire hurt after a blow to the face from a Varun Aaron bouncer which squeezed between his grille and helmet. Blood dripped onto the pitch as he was quickly attended by the physio, although it is debatable whether Broad or India’s batsmen will leave Old Trafford with the more significant scars.
It took a little longer for India’s collapse to set in than the first innings – Chris Woakes claimed his first wicket of the series when he trapped M Vijay lbw before tea, before Gautam Gambhir and Cheteshwar Pujara reached 53 for 1 – but their demise to 66 for 6 was in many ways more extraordinary given England were a bowler down, the sun was out and the early new ball had been weathered.
Anderson, battling what Alastair Cook termed the “lurgy”, removed Gambhir with a short delivery – far from the most vicious of the match – which was gloved through to the keeper, then to the first ball of the next over Pujara was given lbw against Moeen as he pressed forward. It was a large stride and Hawk Eye said the ball had turned enough to slip down the leg side. The fact Moeen was turning the ball considerably, and often, would soon come into play again.
Ajinkya Rahane, however, was done in less by the turn but more by one of the loosest shots he has played in the series – driving a low return catch to Moeen who moved smartly to his right. England, who could not help but be aware of the forecast regardless of how little regard cricketers say they give it, could barely believe the gifts being handed out.
For a moment, the carnage returned to pace; there was a familiar outcome to the Anderson v Virat Kohli battle. Kohli had indicated he wanted to hit his way out of trouble but could only provide another edge to Anderson – this time an inswinger rather than the outswinger – which found its way to second slip. The challenge of a rare five-Test series is finding out a few of the India top order. It will require a searching examination for the likes of Kohli to lift themselves for the final Test next week.
Whether Ravindra Jadeja, who has been a focal point in the series for a variety of reasons, plays in the final game is another matter. His off-the-mark shot, advancing down the pitch at Anderson and swiping a short ball through midwicket, suggested he was there for a good time, not a long time – it also prompted a little sarcastic clap, even a smile, from the under-the-weather Anderson. Next over, Jadeja completed a miserable match with the bat, to follow two middling scores at the Ageas Bowl, when he lunged at Moeen and edged to slip.
By now Anderson had left the field. Surely Dhoni would at least try to take the game deeper? After the Ageas Bowl, he had said the Indian batsmen had been too deferential to Moeen and should attack him more. He followed his own words with deeds, but his heave into the leg side could not beat a diving Gary Ballance at midwicket.
It was now all-but inevitable that England would wrap the game up in the evening. There was momentary frustration when Jordan, who massaged his figures with the final two wickets, overstepped when Bhuvneshwar edged to second slip but another freebie was handed to England when Bhuvneshwar tried to come back for a second and could not beat Moeen’s arm – just the speed of the throw this time, rather than the spin.
R Ashwin continued to look as proficient as any of India’s batsmen in this match, driving and cutting as Jordan strived for the final wickets, but an excellent piece of fielding at deep square-leg by the substitute Liam Livingstone, a young Lancashire player, meant Jordan had two balls at Aaron. One was enough for the No. 10, a short delivery gloved behind, and one more enough to end the match as a yorker defeated Pankaj Singh, who had at least managed to end a 69-over wait for his maiden Test wicket when he earlier removed Joe Root.
Such was the rapid conclusion, it was easy to forget England began on 237 for 6 – a lead of 85 – with a need to be positive and keep the game moving. Root and Jos Buttler, after waiting for the new ball, performed that role perfectly to take their stand to 134 as both reached half-centuries. It was an occasion when a Yorkshireman, Root, was getting warm applause at Old Trafford and the crowd also had much to enjoy from one of their own – or at least an adopted son – as Buttler picked up his second fifty in two Test innings, but this one helped to define a Test victory.
However, as much as the crowd cheered the young batting pair, there was equal appreciation when Pankaj found Root’s glove down the leg side and Marais Erasmus’ finger went up to finally give him a Test average. Buttler was soon his second scalp, driving a slower ball to mid-off, by which time thoughts were firmly turning to what would happen when England took the ball again.
Those plans appeared to have suffered a significant setback when Broad, having pulled consecutive sixes off Aaron, was pinned in the face the next delivery and walked off the field bloodied and dazed. As it was, he had not returned from hospital in time to collect his Man-of-the-Match award.