England crush India, level series
Memory betrays you when you try to think of the last time India lost seven wickets for 25 runs! Yes, that's how India lost this third Test, presenting England a thumping 212-run win.
How could a team with an accomplished batting line up collapse from 75/3 to 100 all out in mere 74 minutes after lunch? It's a question that would always haunt our minds.
It's one thing to lose, and quite another to lose the way they did. "It was bizarre," Rahul Dravid said at the presentation ceremony before sharing the trophy with Andrew Flintoff who was named man-of-the-match and man-of-the-series.
Maybe, the Indian captain could have never imagined of such a disappointing end to his 100th Test.
England levelled this three-Test series 1-1, primarily because the talismanic Flintoff was carrying the team on his shoulders, and also because 37-year-old Shaun Udal bowled his off spinners well on a wearing fifth day track. Still, the Indians could only blame themselves for falling like a pack of cards.
The fall after lunch:
Sachin Tendulkar (34 in 57 balls, five fours) was batting beautifully. Dravid was looking determined to defend everything. The perfect blend of attack and defence.
Sensing the danger, Flintoff didn't want to leave anything for others. He took the ball after lunch and bowled the perfect one in his first over itself, making Dravid (9) the 'Batting's Prince of Denmark".
To play or not to play. Dravid eventually couldn't decide and saw his edge resting in the hands of Geraint Jones. Tendulkar, in the next over, played Udal (4/14) on the front foot, the ball took an inside edge on its way to Ian Bell at forward short leg.
England could not have hoped for a better start to the post-lunch session.
But that was only the beginning of the Indian misery. Virender Sehwag's back was already troubling him. The doctor somehow cleared him to bat on Tuesday evening. Bat he did, but could not score. James Anderson had him plumb in front.
Yuvraj Singh (12) was promising, but he could only watch MS Dhoni (5) perishing to a horrendous shot. Dhoni started stepping out to Udal as if India's target was a meagre 113 and not 313. Even seeing his shot falling short of Monty Panesar at long off, he repeated the stroke again in the same over and this time Monty didn't fumble.
After that it was only a matter of time. And it came sooner than expected. Harbhajan Singh (6) top-edged Udal to Matthew Hoggard at mid-wicket and Flintoff came around the wicket, angling the ball in and then moving it away. Even Yuvraj found him too hot to handle and was neatly caught by Paul Collingwood at second slip.
And the young England team then lifted its oldest player Udal when he took the final wicket of Munaf Patel who tried to hit out of the ground for some consolation only to find Hoggard at mid-wicket.
India were all out for 100. What a blow to the hosts from the injury-hit visitors!
"Dear God. We believe in you. The whole country is with you," read a banner. Struggling for runs and with the team in the shadows, Sachin's fight was on -- the fight against England, against the situation, against his own form. He had the "Wall" for support.
When he joined Dravid in the middle, the early nerves were apparent, shuffling to Flintoff, he was hit on the pad, but the bounce came to his rescue.
After that there was no bowler who could trouble him. Five beautiful strokes were played, each fetching him a boundary. The most confident start we saw him get after God knows how many days.
Dravid was looking solid as ever. It was because of that India took lunch at 75/3, with a much better frame of mind, after losing those two wickets in the morning.
It's one thing to look elegant and quite another to perform elegantly. Flintoff was playing the mind game to discover that Jaffer still had miles to go!
After Hoggard had given them the breakthrough, the England captain bowled a bouncer. Actually by doing that, he was trapping Jaffer who had no clue what was in store.
Next ball was pitched up, Jaffer played across from the crease only to miss the line. Simon Taufel gave his second lbw decision of the morning. And a good one at that!
First hour, or rather, the first round of the day was over. England had won it hands down. Tendulkar came out to bat one last time, at least for another two months!
Kumble was a determined man. Determined to finish off the English innings quickly he did all he could with the ball, then came out to work as a nightwatchman.
And he did an efficient job in the fading light on Tuesday.
He played the first over adroitly on Wednesday. Hoggard was always at him, asking the questions by moving the ball away and in and Kumble, either leaving them alone or defending the ones that came in, always had the answer.
But Hoggard came back in his next over with more venom. Eventually Kumble's bat came down slowly than Hoggard's inswing to be leg before.
India: Virender Sehwag, Wasim Jaffer, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, S Sreesunth, Munaf Patel.
England: Andrew Strauss, O Shah, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff, Geraint Jones, Matthew Hoggard, S Udal, James Anderson, Monty Panesar.