Diametrically opposite performances from the two sides results in a comprehensive England victory inside four days.
Timothy Thomas Bresnan. Following Stuart Broad’s heroics on Friday and Saturday, this was England’s second great all-round performance of the Test match. Although England were a long way ahead overnight, the early wicket of Matt Prior may have triggered a tail-end collapse. However Bresnan, ably assisted by hometown hero Broad, pulverised the Indian bowling with a brutal 90 runs, unfortunately falling short of what would have been a deserved first international century. It came at a fair lick (118 balls), but it was Broad who scored quickest, hitting 44 from 32 balls, including two towering sixes over mid-wicket as Suresh Raina served the ball on a plate. As impressive as the batting was, words, harsh harsh words, have to be reserved for the Indian bowlers and fielders. The three seamers looked understandably tired but with Harbhajan Singh unable to bowl (but fit enough to field and swing the bat), the part-timers Yuvraj Singh and Raina failed to provide any control. The fielding was unacceptably poor, misfields spreading like a virus from MS Dhoni behind the stumps to his team-mates in the deep.
The target of 478 was insurmountable, but with the experience of Rahul Dravid et al, there was a possibility that India could take the game at least to the final day, if not rescue a draw. However the collaborative effort from the three quick bowlers was a masterclass: aggression and control combining with uneven bounce and slight movement through the air or off the seam. Bresnan collected five wickets, a personal best for this shirehorse of a player, who it must be noted, is England’s 4th choice seamer but who now averages 25.09 with the ball.
We will however choose not to mention his attempted catch at first slip, which would have dismissed Abhinav Mukund for a king pair (this drop was insignificant, as evidenced by Mukund’s ultimate tally of three runs from 41 balls.)
Tough to choose: the day was so unbelievably one-sided that at no time did it resemble a contest. As fun as it was to watch Broad and Bresnan score at almost one hundred runs per hour, it was an imbalance that verged on being embarrassing. Once the Indians were batting, the wickets fell regularly, with Dravid being caught behind off Broad for six. Perhaps the highlight, the signal that the match would finish on the day, was the moment that Jimmy Anderson bowled VVS Laxman: a delivery on a good length that suggested inswing before moving away just enough off the pitch to send the stump cartwheeling. Once Bresnan came into the attack, the wickets kept tumbling, including that of MS Dhoni who misjudged a straight one: his golden duck capped a truly awful match for the Indian captain. Sachin Tendulkar offered some resistance before he too left an Anderson inswinger.
It was Anderson and Stuart Broad, deservedly the official Man of the Match, who cleaned up the tail with fine yorkers, though we should also mention the substitute fielder Scott Elstone who nervously caught Harbhajan in the deep, only a few deliveries after he had grounded a difficult running catch from Praveen Kumar.
More analysis of the victory will follow in the coming days, but for now, we say this: to win a match by 319 runs is superb; to win a match by 319 runs against the supposed best team in the world, with two of the sport’s leading batsmen (Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott) scoring only 13 runs between them is incredible; and to win a match by 319 runs after being 124/8 on the first evening is just staggering.
The third Test starts next Wednesday, before which India play a two-day match against Northamptonshire. The tourists will hope that Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Zaheer Khan can all find full fitness, otherwise they will struggle to get to the Oval with the series still alive. For England, they will have to wait to see whether Trott and Chris Tremlett are fit, with interesting selection choices to be made should the former be ruled out or the latter deemed available.