|Photos||Video & Audio||Blogs||Statistics||Archive||Fantasy||Mobile|
At Birmingham, August 10-13. England won by an innings and 242 runs. Toss: England.
One way or another, Edgbaston usually causes a stir, and this game was no different. The Third Test began with the possibility that England, already 2-0 up, would be tipped towards collective greatness and into the world No. 1 spot, while India would be sent tumbling even deeper into self-doubt. But there was concern over whether the match would begin at all: in a stir of a more sinister kind, the two nights before the game were marred by small mobs walking through Birmingham city centre, breaking into shops and vandalising property in grim homage to the riots in London.
Helicopters hovered as the teams went through their fielding drills on the eve of the game; twilight carried a quiet menace. At the normally humdrum pre-match briefings, the captains were immediately asked about the unrest. Strauss called it "horrific", but emphasised his side would have to stay "isolated" from events; Dhoni wanted to leave everything to the authorities, although the Indian team, used to being surrounded by police back home, believed they needed extra security. While cricket cannot be detached from its environment, the modern professional evidently must.
From the first murmur of trouble, Warwickshire were quick to stamp out the prospect of a cancellation. Business, though, was hardly as usual: three men were killed in a violent hit-and-run in the nearby Winson Green neighbourhood only ten hours before the start, but - following talks with police - it was decided to proceed as normal. When the gates were thrown open at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, the crowds came pouring in. While hundreds of arrests were taking place outside, England and India got on with the cricket.
Anything else would have been heart-breaking for the new-look Edgbaston. A tatty ground had made way for a gleaming £32m stadium. After decades of low-rise indistinction, Edgbaston now soared to dazzling heights, its new open-air Skyline Terrace showing off the Birmingham cityscape. It deserved a spectacular game; what it got was a walkover.
India hoped the return of Sehwag from shoulder surgery would reignite a spluttering batting line-up and allow everyone to resume their rightful positions. But Sehwag failed to get his gloves out of the way of his first ball - the seventh of the match - as Broad cramped him for room; he was despatched after England challenged umpire Davis's not- out verdict. By lunch, India were 75 for four. No one was paying attention any longer to the smoke rising over the old scoreboard from an industrial accident, unrelated to the riots, in the Nechells district. Far more riveting to English eyes was the sight of the Indian batting being turned into another heap of rubble.
The score became 111 for seven as England's disciplined seamers made the most of whatever was given to them by the pitch, an overcast sky and the doubts planted in the minds of India's despairing batsmen. Although Dhoni retaliated with his first half-century of the series, a total of 224 was the product of lazy answers to probing questions; for here was a pitch that England - who closed that night on 84 without loss - were about to put in perspective.
Strauss played his part in an opening stand of 186, but it was Cook, in his first real statement of the series after scoring only 20 runs in his first four attempts, who produced an innings for the ages. It lasted seven minutes short of 13 hours, ate up 545 balls - 33 of which went for four - and ended late on the third evening with an uncharacteristic clout to deep point. Cook's epic 294 was the sixth-highest Test score from an Englishman, and the biggest since Graham Gooch's 333 against India at Lord's in 1990; it took England to 710, their third-highest Test total. Gooch was watching from the dressing-room, where, as batting coach, he had instilled the importance of the "daddy hundred" - a score of 150- plus. Cook came up with a grand-daddy.
And yet Cook's innings, his 19th and highest Test hundred, beating his 235 at Brisbane in November, was far from an Edgbaston-style stir and more of a methodical, clinical shift - of both the scoreboard, again and again, and, inexorably, the series itself. This was accumulation rather than artistry, but Cook wore the weight of his numbers lightly, aided (it must be said) by unthreatening bowling. His fourth-wicket stand of 222 with Morgan, who was badly missed by Sreesanth in the covers on 17 and Dravid at slip on 43 en route to his second Test century, was an exercise in ruthlessness. "When you bowl a side out in two sessions," said Cook in plainspeak, "you can bat as long as you want."
Armed with a lead of 486, England's third-largest in Tests, the home bowlers were relentless. Sehwag poked Anderson to first slip to depart for the first pair of his career - a king pair at that - and on the fourth morning England's spearhead was irresistible. Gambhir fell to Anderson's first delivery of the day, before Dravid was undone by his eighth, failing to review a caught-behind decision which was based, replays showed, on the sound of bat on aglet, the plastic tip of his fatally floppy shoelace.
Anderson then had Laxman caught behind, and India's plight was summed up by the dismissal of Tendulkar, who played fluently for 40 but was run out at the non- striker's end as Swann got a hand to a straight-drive from Dhoni. The Indian captain delayed the inevitable in an entertaining stand with Kumar, who biffed 40 from 18 balls, but Broad and Bresnan completed the job, and the crowd, sombre on the first mor- ning, chorused with gusto as victory was sealed before tea. It was England's fifth-largest innings win.
India's third-heaviest defeat, meanwhile, gave them their first 0-3 scoreline since they visited Australia in 1999-2000, after a decade of far more confident touring. Invited to score tough runs - and shown the way by Cook - their batsmen lacked resolution. If there was a clanger louder than Dravid's two dropped catches at slip (he had also missed Bell), it came from Dhoni's post-game statement that India played 70-80% of their cricket at home, and touring was more about personal improvement.
England, meanwhile, were left to celebrate their first series win over India since 1996. Their position at the top of the Test rankings would not be formally ratified until the end of the series, but few cared about the technicalities. As promised, Edgbaston had caused quite a stir.
Man of the Match: A. N. Cook. Attendance: 93,795.
Close of play: First day, England 84-0 (Strauss 52, Cook 27); Second day, England 456-3 (Cook 182, Morgan 44); Third day, India 35-1 (Gambhir 14, Dravid 18).