Match reports

India v England, 2014

Wisden's review of the fifth Test, India v England, 2014

Sidharth Monga
Sidharth Monga
England celebrate their 3-1 Test series win over India  •  PA Photos

England celebrate their 3-1 Test series win over India  •  PA Photos

At The Oval, August 15-17. England won by an innings and 244 runs. Toss: England.
This was a unique experience for the Indians - not one of their team had played a five-Test series - and, ultimately, another harrowing one. They began the game with the possibility of redemption: despite the crushing defeats in Southampton and Manchester, they could still salvage a 2-2 draw. In an unforgiving schedule, it would have been some achievement. And, if they needed any encouragement, the game began on their Independence Day. Instead, they slumped with barely a whimper to the third-heaviest defeat in their history, handing England a restorative 3-1 victory in the process.
For the first time in 36 years, India had lost three Test series in a row. It was as if Lord's had never happened. It may not have helped that they were up against a side playing a Fifth Test for the 11th time since India had last played one themselves, in the Caribbean in 2001-02. For England, the pieces had all fallen into place in the 25 days since Cook, Peter Moores and others had spent hours in deep conversation on the Lord's balcony following the Second Test debacle.
That game had been their tenth in succession without a win; now, they were about to make it three victories in a row, and retain the Pataudi Trophy. They were no doubt grateful to be handed a moist, seaming pitch. Up in the TMS commentary box, Geoff Boycott said he couldn't imagine a groundsman producing it without instruction, and wondered whether England would feel as confident on the same surface when the Australians came calling in 2015. But that was for the future. This was now - and India had neither the hostility of Mitchell Johnson nor the accuracy of Ryan Harris to make them fret.
Two days before this game began, Dhoni missed nets to visit a Metropolitan Police specialist training centre in Gravesend. India's captain is an honorary Lieutenant-Colonel in the paras unit of the Indian Army, though he refuses to wear their maroon beret until he is freed of the BCCI contract that bars him from jumping from planes. From time to time he likes to broaden his horizons, so his day off should not have been a big deal. Yet the caginess in the Indian camp about Dhoni's decision - and his own defensiveness in his eve-of-match press conference - almost suggested a guilty conscience. By the time he was speaking to the media after the game, he was referring cryptically to his own future as Test captain, though most regarded this as a characteristic refusal to be drawn into easy headlines.
After Cook had put India in, the unravelling continued immediately: Gambhir fell for a golden duck in the first over, trying to leave a shortish delivery from Anderson, but doing so awkwardly and withdrawing the bat too late. The feeling persisted that India would have been better off sticking with Shikhar Dhawan, who had been dropped in Manchester. Pujara and Kohli, the two greatest batting disappointments of the series, followed quickly, their technical flaws exposed once more by England's accurate plans. Pujara's back foot had hardly moved all series, while his bat too often moved the wrong way - coming down from the direction of gully, it caused him to miss straight balls. Broad was the beneficiary here. Kohli, meanwhile, had been practising his leaves. But the non-stroke had already caused his downfall, at Lord's, and now it did for him again as he padded up to Jordan. If the decision looked a touch harsh - he had managed a big stride - then at least he would soon be out of his misery.
Jordan had kept his place in an unchanged England side, and both he and Woakes enjoyed themselves as India slipped grimly to 90 for nine. As in Manchester, where he had entered the fray at eight for four, Dhoni was taking blows on his body, farming the strike, and showing his specialist batsmen that runs could be scored even with an unorthodox technique. He made 82 before helping Broad to fine leg, having added 58 for the last wicket with Ishant Sharma, back in the side as one of two changes made by India (Binny also returned after being dropped for two Tests, while Jadeja and Pankaj Singh both paid the price for a lack of wickets). But, with none of Dhoni's colleagues reaching 20, the recovery amounted merely to 148. It was never going to be nearly enough.
Cook and Robson enjoyed some fortune to reach stumps unseparated, and with the deficit already under 100. From then on, the only question was whether England would declare or be bowled out. Robson did little to boost his credentials as a Test opener when he missed a straight ball from Aaron, once more the fastest bowler on either side, but Cook and Ballance added 125 for the second wicket to ease England into the lead. For Cook in particular it wasn't always straightforward. Lucky to survive an lbw shout from Bhuvneshwar Kumar on nine, he was badly dropped by Vijay off Aaron at first slip on 65, then missed again at slip on 70, by Rahane off Ashwin. It all added to the sense that his return to form might have been overplayed. And, though the runs were welcome, his eventual demise for 79 meant he was now without a Test century in 31 innings.
Cook's wicket was the first of four to fall for 38, the closest England came to a wobble all game. But Root restored control, adding 80 with Buttler, 82 with Jordan and - at ten an over - 63 with the pugnacious Broad, apparently unbowed by the broken nose Aaron had inflicted on him at Old Trafford. By the end of it all, with England's lead stretching to 338 on the third morning, the spritely Root was still there, unbeaten on 149 from 165 balls - and denied his third Test 150 of the summer only by a dubious lbw decision against Anderson.
When India began batting again late on the third morning, rain was in the air. As in Manchester, a fourth day beckoned; as in Manchester, it wasn't needed. Anderson trapped Vijay in the fifth over, and Gambhir ran himself out in his desperation to escape the strike, beaten by Woakes's direct hit from short midwicket. As if to sum up India's resignation, he didn't even dive for the crease.
From nine for two, India crumbled one last time, in the equivalent of under a session. Pujara and Kohli both got edges, ending the series with 356 runs between them at a combined average of 17. (For the fourth innings in a row, India were briefly 66 for six.) Ballance held a superb catch at third slip to see off Rahane, and Dhoni fell for a duck, batpadding a delivery of extra bounce from Woakes to short leg. Jordan, growing in confidence, then polished his series figures, rounding off the match with four wickets in 19 balls. It meant Anderson ended the series three short of equalling Ian Botham's England Test record of 383; India's coach Duncan Fletcher had no choice but to choose him as England's Man of the Series.
When Ishant Sharma fended Jordan up in the air just before tea, Ali took a sitter to end India's misery. They had now scored fewer runs for more wickets in five Test innings than in their last five Twenty20 internationals. It was somehow fitting that Ali was the catcher. Back in June, he had watched from the other end as Anderson was caught in similar fashion from the penultimate ball of the Headingley Test to hand the series to Sri Lanka. Then, Ali had been denied a heroic draw after batting all day. Now, he and Anderson were two of England's bowling stars. As the players celebrated with each other and their families, the contrasts captured their extraordinary summer.
Man of the Match: J. E. Root.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo