India v England: Cheteshwar Pujara helps hosts race to 77 runs needed for victory as tourists' resistance runs out
It was all rather ignominious in the end, rather than the heroic last stand that England had wanted.
England’s last five wickets were wrapped up in the morning session for only 66 more runs, including Alastair Cook, and India knocked off the 77 runs they needed to win by nine wickets.
India knocked off the runs pretty disdainfully too. Jimmy Anderson was taken off after two overs, and Graeme Swann – far and away England’s most effective bowler in India’s first innings – found his offbreaks thumped through the offside or trashed to leg, and picked up only one face-saving wicket.
India thus went 1-0 up before the fifth day was half spent. It made the seventh Test that England have lost this calendar year, and their fifth in Asia.
But at least England competed in their second innings, after capitulating in their first. Led by Cook, who batted for nine and a quarter hours, they kept India in the field for 154.3 overs and clocked 400.
It would have been enough if England had batted ‘anything like’ in their first innings. But one bad session can cost you a Test: and England’s came on the third morning when four prime wickets succumbed in a flurry of dust and a hint of panic to India’s spinners.
Cook’s 176 at least set the best possible example for his teammates to follow in the rest of this series. His marvel of concentration continued on the fifth morning, until Pragyan Ojha – who finished with nine wickets in the match – accounted for him and Prior.
Ojha’s drip-drip relentlessness was going to win the day sooner or later, and he struck in the first hour. Prior drove off the back foot a return catch to Ojha: perhaps a tired shot but then Prior had been out there for the best part of four hot days.
Cook made no real mistake, although his footwork was a bit slow, but was rather undone by Ojha’s skill. From round the wicket Ojha had been tossing the ball up to Cook and drawing him forward. Then came the quicker ball which pitched outside off, gripped and bowled Cook through the gate before he could move.
Broad was caught and bowled, Swann tried a reverse-sweep once too often and Bresnan was last out, driving to short extra-cover. All a bit sudden for England’s liking: their resistance boiled down to Cook and Prior, and some of Compton’s stubbornness.
The second Test begins in Mumbai on Friday. Ian Bell will miss it for the birth of his first child, but in any event he would have been one of several England players unsure of a place after making minimal contributions in Ahmedabad.