Andrew Flintoff was simply unstoppable as England ran away to a famous win
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Missing six frontline players, dogged by injury and health problems, England defied all odds and pulled off a magnificent series-levelling 212-run win, their biggest victory in the subcontinent since that memorable performance in Karachi in 2000-01. Requiring 313 for an unlikely win, India were never in the hunt in the face of a superb bowling performance, and capitulated to 100, losing seven wickets for 25 in a manic 75 minutes after lunch, as England quite emphatically ended their 21-year winless streak in India
Andrew Flintoff, England's talisman throughout the series with bat, ball, and in the field, starred on the final day as well with spells of sustained hostility, taking 3 for 14. But the bowler who finished with most wickets was the one who was reckoned to be the least threatening of the lot. Shaun Udal, who turned 37 on the first day of this Test and who had a tally of three scalps in three matches before this one, found appreciable turn and bounce from the fifth-day pitch and spun out four batsmen, including the most crucial one of them all, Sachin Tendulkar, to set the Indian innings into a tailspin and hasten England's march to victory.
A target of 313 was never likely to be an easy one, but till lunch, which India took at 75 for 3, the contest was on, with Tendulkar - showing signs of returning to form with a fluent 34 - and Dravid putting together 42 after two early setbacks. After the break, though, the contest turned in a mere 15.2 overs of breathless action.
Flintoff, with two innings of exactly 50 and a wicket in the Indian first innings, started the slide. Having already bowled two outstanding spells in the morning, troubling Wasim Jaffer no end and then finally putting him out of his misery, Flintoff now came back and removed the batsman who was most capable of batting India to safety. He got one to pitch perfectly in the corridor, and forced Dravid - whose 100th Test went horribly wrong - to nick it to the wicketkeeper.
That was the third delivery after lunch, and it set the cat among the pigeons. Next over, Tendulkar offered a bat-pad catch to short leg off Udal, stunning the crowd into silence and effectively ending the Indian resistance. James Anderson then did his bit, winning an lbw verdict against Virender Sehwag, who was clearly hampered by back spasms.
Matthew Hoggard gave England their first wicket of the morning
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The Indian innings was now spiralling downwards rapidly, but Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who had resisted the England attack for more than three hours in the first innings, was in no mood to repeat that performance, offering two chances, before being out to the third, all within nine deliveries. After being reprieved in the slips off Anderson, Dhoni faced up to Udal, and was clearly intent on demonstrating his ability to hit the ball far and wide. The first slog hovered over mid-off for an eternity, before Monty Panesar, easily England's weakest link in the field, made a complete mess of it - the ball actually landed three metres to his right. Satisfied that Panesar wouldn't hold on to any offering, Dhoni charged again when he next came onto strike, miscued again, but this time - shock, horror - Panesar did latch onto the ball.
Yuvraj Singh attempted to bat sensibly, playing all of 46 deliveries for 12 runs, but on this day England, and Flintoff, were not to be denied. A waft outside off ended safely in the slips cordon, before Udal wrapped it up even as the Indians seemed in a tearing hurry to get the match done with and leave the field. And when Matthew Hoggard pouched another miscue off Munaf Patel to give Udal his fourth of the innings, England had pulled off a result which had seemed impossible only five days ago.
Anil Kumble lbw Hoggard 8 (21 for 2)
Played back to an indipper and struck in front of leg stump
Wasim Jaffer lbw b Flintoff 10 (33 for 3)
Full ball which nipped back sharply, batsman played well outside the line
Rahul Dravid c Jones b Flintoff 9 (75 for 4)
Nicked one just outside off
Sachin Tendulkar c Bell b Udal 34 (76 for 5)
Inside-edge on to pad, smart catch at short leg
Virender Sehwag lbw b Anderson 0 (77 for 6)
Good length, pitched outside off, seamed in and struck the pad in line with off
Mahendra Singh Dhoni c Panesar b Udal 5 (92 for 7)
Miscued hoick to mid-off
Harbhajan Singh c Hoggard b Udal 6 (99 for 8)
Slog sweep to long leg
Munaf Patel c Hoggard b Udal 1 (100 all out)
Top edged a slog to deep fine leg
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo