England ascend to the top of the Test rankings as India yet again fail with the bat.
Jimmy Anderson. This team’s ability to regularly bowl sides out relatively cheaply is attributable to the performances of all their bowlers. Today all four took wickets, which only seemed fair. But spearheading the attack was Anderson, who dismissed Gautum Gambhir, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman within the first hour to leave India reeling at 56/4. Time and again, he provides a masterclass in swing bowling and in removing the top order himself, he moved ahead of Andrew Caddick and Sir Alec Bedser in the list of leading England Test wicket takers.
Sachin Tendulkar had batted well in scoring 40 runs as he fought to keep India alive in the match when MS Dhoni drove Graeme Swann back down the pitch; the spinner reacted well by sprawling to get a hand on the ball. Tendulkar had backed up and tried to get back in his crease. As the ball knocked the stumps, his bat was still out of ground- albeit by millimetres.
This event had been preceded by another fortunate dismissal, with the television replays showing that Dravid had not edged the ball from Anderson that removed him; the noise, which the fielders, the umpire and Tendulkar at the non-striker’s end had all heard, was actually Dravid’s bat hitting his aglet (the plastic at the end of a shoelace).
Nonetheless, there must be a hundred proverbs and mottos about luck. Such was the way that England bowled, that there is little doubt that the wickets would have fallen another way eventually and the inevitable would only have been delayed.
We must also mention Dhoni’s unbeaten 74 and the able but brief support from Praveen Kumar who bludgeoned 40 from 18 balls, most of which came off Swann and ended up in a distant corner of south Birmingham (or on one memorable occaision, a spectator’s pint).
It is hard to conclude anything other than that England will likely continue to dominate in the final Test. For India, the tour has been a disaster and there is little expectation that they can do what England at times did in the 1990s and salvage some pride with victory in the final test of a series that was long lost. However the Oval has been the scene for many dramatic farewells from these shores over the years; perhaps, just perhaps, The Little Master will remind us how and why he and The Wall are the leading run scorers in the history of this fine sport.