Dominant England wrap up Third test victory
England required just over an hour on the final day in Kolkata to complete a comprehensive 7 wicket win over India and take a 2-1 lead with one match left to play in the series.
Having finished off the Indian innings with the 10th ball of the day, England wobbled to 8-3, chasing a target of just 41, before Ian Bell (28 not out) and opener Nick Compton (9 not out) moved them one step closer to a first series victory in India since 1985. First innings centurion Alistair Cook, Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen all fell cheaply to give the Indians the briefest glimpse of a miracle, but victory was never really in doubt after India’s sudden collapse on day four.
The hosts’ fragile batting line-up has been a cause for concern all series, with only newcomer Cheteshwar Pujara impressing against the English attack, averaging over 100. Indeed, off-spinner and No.8 batsman, Ravichandran Ashwin is second in the averages behind Pujara, highlighting India’s batting concerns ahead of the final test in Nagpur, which begins on Thursday.
The pendulum has swung so far since the series began in Ahmedabad just four weeks ago, that the tourists will be confident of consigning India to their third straight home defeat for the first time in eight years. There, it appeared that England’s anxieties against top-class spin would once again provide a barrier to success on the sub-continent, with Ashwin and Praghan Ohja forcing the top order into their shells.
However, the application shown by Cook, Compton and Trott in the aftermath of that defeat has been admirable, while Kevin Pietersen’s swashbuckling 186 in the second test was arguably the turning point of the series. Just as importantly, since switching to ‘twin-spin’ themselves in the form of Graeme Swann and the recalled Monty Panesar, England have found the missing ingredient. The pair have out-bowled their Indian counterparts, with Panesar in particular showing excellent variation in pace. The seamers have backed up their teammates too; Steven Finn and James Anderson taking three wickets each in India’s second innings debacle.
The selectors have responded somewhat tentatively to calls for change from disgruntled home supporters. Quick Zaheer Khan and batsman Yuvraj Singh have been sacrificed, alongside Harbhajan Singh, who has been an unused squad member thus far. In their place come Parvinder Awana, Ravindra Jadeja and leg-spinner, Piyush Chawla. Out-of-sorts Sachin Tendulkar and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni retain their places in the team, but will be feeling the heat more than most as India bid to regain their pride in Nagpur.
Barring injuries, England are likely to remain unchanged and understandably so. A disappointing 2012, which has included series defeats to Pakistan in the UAE and at home to South Africa, could end on a real high if they maintain their strong all-round performance this week, and ensure they get back on track in their bid to regain the No.1 world ranking they lost to the South Africans in August.