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India tour of England: Moeen Ali lands knock-out punch

England level series after part-time spinner Moeen makes India fold without resistance on Day 5.

By: Reuters Written by Sandeep Dwivedi | Southampton | Updated: August 1, 2014 1:30 am
Moeen dismissed Jadeja, Kumar and Shami in the space of 12 balls, before he aptly took the final scalp of Singh. (Source: AP) Moeen dismissed Jadeja, Kumar and Shami in the space of 12 balls, before he aptly took the final scalp of Singh. (Source: AP)

Leaving behind the noisy and celebrating England dressing room, pacer Chris Jordan ran down the steps leading out on to the Rose Bowl field. Waiting for him in the stands was a member of the production staff. And in his hands were a couple of stumps.

During England’s mad scramble to collect memorabilia after the fall of the final Indian wicket that ushered in a series-levelling 266-run win, Jordan, with only a couple of catches to show in the game, had to be consciously slow during the ritualistic uprooting of stumps. It was only after the two middle-stumps were de-wired by the production crew that the debutant got his souvenir that would remind of Southampton and England’s famous win.

Such was the nature of this Test match, where England had too many performers and too few stumps.

Cook regains poise

From an unsettled side with an unsure leader, the home team went on to gain their balanced look again and are currently led by a born-again captain at helm. On Thursday, after yet another clinical show by England’s bowlers and fielders, India went from 112/4 to 178 all out within a couple of hours.

Last Saturday, on the eve of this Test, Cook had walked alone to the Rose Bowl for a batting session with coach Peter Moores. He was searching for his form, the anti-dote that would save his captaincy. Five days later, he left the venue with runs in his bag and the crown firmly on his head.

As a rule, the winning team tends to have more members in the balcony than the losing side when the award ceremony is on. Rose Bowl on Day Five was no different. So while a few listless members of India’s support staff sat outside the visitors’ dressing room during the medal ceremony, the home corner was crowded with smiling and clapping men listening to captain Alastair Cook talk about “collective effort” and Man of the Match James Anderson announce how “England won each session of the game”.

Everytime Cook took a team-mate’s name, he would receive pats from those seated around him in the balcony. Gary Ballance (156), Ian Bell (167) and Jos Butler (85) all found mentions in the captain’s speech.

Moeen Ali, the part-timer who became a specialist after bagging figures of 6/67, was thanked not just by the skipper but almost everyone at the venue. From the top-tier, beaming mothers hung their scared babies to wave at the bearded spinner. He would sign countless autographs on books, towels and T-shirts. For the second time in this Test match, Ali had sent a message from his wrist.
The Indians had taken Ali’s spinning skills lightly. But now we know who had the last laugh. On Day Four, he had dismissed India’s No.3 and No.4 — Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli. Today, benefitting from the widening roughs, Ali had wiped out the Indian tail.

He dismissed Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami for ducks, an extraordinary achievement if one takes into account their scores in this series.

Crafty Jimmy

Before Ali’s strikes, it was Anderson who had struck for England. Manipulating his pace and length, he got overnight batsman Rohit Sharma to edge the ball to the wicketkeeper. His dismissal of MS Dhoni too was very similar.

Anderson first started by bowling a couple of balls on good length. These were the kind of balls a batsman could easily defend or even run it down to third man. This was followed by a fuller delivery that was pacier and swung more. The bait made the batsmen reach out. Both Rohit and Dhoni made the same mistake and ended up edging the ball. With India reduced to 147/6 after the first hour of play, there was a buzz in the stands and panic at the food court. An early end would seen lunch outlets sweating over surplus. But Pankaj Singh’s 15 minutes of batting fame was enough for the game to get over closer to the end of the first session. And after the longish awards ceremony, the fans hung around at the venue to talk cricket and, for once, it wasn’t about Cook’s captaincy.

The Indians, desperate for some exercise after a short day, started a football game late in the afternoon. It could have been a refreshing distraction considering the problems the team is facing on this long tour.

With Ishant Sharma ruled out of the next game and Bhuvneshwar looking tired, many more untested pacers might be seen in action during the next two Tests. Besides, there were a couple of batting woes too. Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli’s lack of runs will surely make the thinktank get into a huddle sooner rather than later.

One Test match can make a lot of difference. After the Lord’s win, India were on a high. But after Southampton, the team is posed with plenty of problems, while England have a problem of plenty.

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