The fourth Test between India and England at Manchester was one of the most one-sided contests between two top-ranked Test playing sides. The way India faltered in the match, it seemed like England were playing against a minnow side. India were a far cry from the side that created history at Lord's only a few weeks ago. All talks from MS Dhoni that India had learnt their lessons from the 2011 series now seemed hollow. The bizarre manner in which India performed, it was as if they just hadn't arrived for the game. Or may be, they just did not have the stomach to put up a fight, at least it seemed so.
Dhoni may have won the toss and decided to bat under tough conditions, but only one team played as if they wanted to win. And that one side definitely wasn't India. Often, a Test isn't decided even after five full days of Test cricket. At Old Trafford, it was decided in five overs, although the official result was only out on the third day. England bowled brilliantly in the first five overs of the Test. They knew India's top and middle order was under immense pressure going into the game, and the pacers exploited the same. The Indian batsmen just did not have the technique to keep England's faster men at bay, and that was game, set and match.
True, England were lucky that the conditions turned overcast to aid their cause, and India's batsmen also helped out England by playing some indecisive strokes. But, James Anderson and Stuart Broad still had to exploit the conditions to give England the advantage. They did the same brilliantly. In a similar situation at Lord's, England allowed India to escape. They had the Indians on the mat after getting the early wickets under helpful conditions. Bizarrely, the pacers started bowling short, and allowed India to come back into the game courtesy a century from Ajinkya Rahane. There was no such repeat at Manchester. England had clearly learnt their lessons.
While Anderson and Broad were superb with their bowling, this time they were aided by the fact that Chris Jordan was also among the wickets. In the earlier game, India found things slightly easier as Jordan allowed them some breathing space, but this time there was no such escape route. Jordan although not menacing found his groove and picked up some key wickets as well. One of the reasons Jordan actually ended up looking so much better at Old Trafford was because Broad and Anderson gave India nothing to hit. As such, India had no other option but to try and get some runs off Jordan. The move, however, only added to India's misery.
An analysis of England's impressive win at Old Trafford would be incomplete without the mention of Moeen Ali. He may still have some work to do with the bat, but he has certainly displayed his spin bowling credentials. Gone are the days, when he was referred to as the weak link in the England bowling, and that wasn't long ago. The Indians have made him look menacing in the series for sure, but Ali has also played his part by putting the ball in the right areas, and maintaining the right speed, something which Ravichandran Ashwin can learn from. The fact that Ali has got a few batsmen out lbw in the series proves that he has been beating the batsmen with pace. And again, India were clueless.
--By A Cricket Analyst