India 295 & 342 (Vijay 95, Jadeja 68) beat
England 319 & 223 (Sharma 7-74) by 95 runs
Second Test, Lord's
And what a Test it was. A reassuring balance between bat and ball after the farce that was Trent Bridge and at the home of cricket; Indian cricket seems to be emerging from its period of transition.
If India are a flourishing side, then England appear to be back in the doldrums of the 1990s. Nine Test matches and counting now for this new look England side without a victory.
India claimed victory just an hour after lunch on the fifth day. Sharma was the Indian destroyer in chief. He delivered a brutal spell of short pitched bowling to kill England off and record bowling figures of seven for 74.
England started the day on 105 for four and despite some early scares Moeen Ali and Joe Root appeared to be guiding England into a position where victory no longer seemed a distant dream. The pair played doggedly and diligently for the most part of the morning session, only when Sharma returned for a new spell did Root unfurl three boundaries in an over to stir the Lord’s crowd.
With England appearing well set on 173 for four with a ball to go until lunch, the match appeared to be slipping away from the tourists. However, Sharma produced a brute of a ball which Moeen only succeeded in turning his back on and looping the ball in the air for an easy catch at short leg.
The short ball has been a consistent problem for England for over a year now but the most worrying aspect is that new players, such as Moeen, are also struggling to the play the short ball with any real confidence.
After tea, India’s plan was simple and effective: short short short. It worked superbly. Matt Prior was caught in the deep after playing like a man trying to prove a point and Ben Stokes then practically rolled over at the crease and gave his wicket up.
Stokes needs some time back in the county game to seriously iron out some batting technical issues, after failing to reach double figures in any of his last 10 innings for England.
Sharma continued his hostile spell and was rewarded with the wicket of England’s star performer; Joe Root had resisted for 146 balls and looked in good aggressive form after lunch, but with partners running out, he could only flat bat the ball to the mid- wicket boundary to give Sharma yet another victim.
The tail fell quickly and England were all out for 223, falling 95 runs short of their target. India were brutal and merciless during the afternoon session and an England side desperately short of form and confidence were powerless to repel them.
With three Tests to play, Duncan Fletcher will be telling his players that the series is theirs for the taking, while his opposite number - and England's selectors - will have some tough decisions to make before naming a squad for the next Test.
As I mentioned on these pages yesterday, England are not lacking talent but they do lack the mental toughness required to take the opportunity to win Test matches.
© Cricket World 2014