England humiliate India again

Seven-wicket win gives visitors 2-1 series lead.

Ian Bell erased memories of two horrific shots with his vital, timely cameo on Sunday.

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KOLKATA:
Distressing visions of Abu Dhabi would have screamed through Alastair Cook’s head. Chasing a trivial 41 against India for a 2-1 lead in the series, England found themselves in a tangle yet again on Sunday morning. Perhaps it was the trifling target that put thoughts of a glorious charge to victory in their heads. Perhaps it was their total disregard for India’s bowling arsenal that bubbled over as three moments of indiscretion.

In January this year, England had collapsed for 72 chasing 145 against Pakistan’s spinners. At 8/3 on the final morning of the Eden Gardens Test – with Cook, Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen back in the pavilion – they would have quivered at the memory, before Ian Bell seized the moment and wrested away a win that was already half in their grasp.

The seven-wicket verdict will allow England to enter the fourth and final Test at Nagpur with their heads high and truly in front of the home team, which finds itself lagging despite custom-made pitches, three won tosses and  vast supporting structures that would shame the biggest of corporate houses. The knives are likely to be out, soon, in ways hitherto unimagined!

For India, it was also the first time since 1999-2000 that they had lost consecutive Test matches at home. An acute batting failure marked the team’s dismal showings at Mumbai at Kolkata, and it is anybody’s guess what comprised the grave exchanges that Chief Selector Sandeep Patil was observed sharing with MS Dhoni and coach Duncan Fletcher.

Eden magic?

Set 41 to win after India had lost their last wicket within two overs on the morning, England made a most uncharacteristic start. Cook charged down to R. Ashwin promptly, was beaten by the turn and stumped for only the second time in his career. Pragyan Ojha trapped Jonathan Trott leg before with an arm ball, and Ashwin returned to induce an edge from Kevin PIetersen that was gratefully accepted by Dhoni behind the wicket.

England had lost three key wickets with virtually nothing on the board. Would an unprecedented implosion follow from here? Ian Bell ensured it did not. He released the pressure by flicking a couple of Ashwin full tosses to the leg side fence, and cut Ojha majestically through point. A single off Ashwin and Bell had seen his team home, as the final piece in Pietersen's 'reintegration' fell in place in the dressing room with a tight hug that Cook enveloped him in.

Ashwin misses century

As it happened, the Chennai off-spinner resumed on Sunday on 83, with the lead 32, and last man Ojha for company. Ashwin picked boundaries off Finn’s first over to get into the nineties. But he did not have too much time to get nervous about the impending landmark. For, in the very next over – the second of the morning – James Anderson flicked Ojha’s off bail with a pacy delivery.

England had been set a target of 41. And it can be safely assumed that the three wickets they lost had more to do with pumped up batsmen getting out in their haste towards what they considered certain victory.  A few more runs would have really tested the visitors, but runs for India have been at a premium in this series.

If wishes were horses

If only they had scored 50 more in the second innings. If only the target was in the vicinity of 100. If only Gautam Gambhir hadn’t run out Cheteshwar Pujara, and played a horrendous shot to Steve Finn.  If only Sachin Tendulkar was younger, more prolific, less iffy against bowlers he’d have taken to the cleaners a couple of years ago.

If only Virender Sehwag had not found himself fatally in the pleasurable throes of a post-lunch stupor. If only Virat Kohli had made 40 instead of 20. If only Ashwin had made his second Test hundred and gone on to 150. If only Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman could be couriered bottles of the elixir of youth – jumbo-sized, please! That sure sounds less fanciful than expecting some decent runs from the current line up.

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