London, August 15
It’s 1:00 pm at the Oval, where the Test is just 90 minutes old. Had this been a football game, these would have been the dying minutes of the game. And if you were an Indian fan, you perhaps would’ve wanted this to be football since — if only to hear the final whistle. With India’s score reading 36/5, the Test and series were as good as over. So early in the Test, a 3-1 series result seemed an eventuality. For the rest of the Test, only the other blanks in the scorecard remained to be filled.
At stumps, there would be a minor change of script as Mahendra Singh Dhoni played a captain’s knock of 82 but India still folded up for just 148. After that, England got their 90 minutes under the sun. That began the second one-sided contest of the day. At stumps, against a listless Indian bowling attack, openers Alastair Cook (24) and Sam Robson (33) took England to 62/0.
On the first day of the final Test, England had given further evidence that they were the better side. India, meanwhile, were once again proving to be poor travellers, Test-challenged and IPL-addicted. Every stereotype associated with Indian cricket, however unfair or rhetorical, seemed apt on Friday.
Like in the first innings at Old Trafford, India’s top-five had once again aggregated all of 36 runs between them. Incredibly, while matching their worst show in this Test series, they also had managed a couple of new lows. Losing a wicket in the first over, an opener’s golden duck, no 50 partnership in the top half -- none of these tragedies had figured in India’s sob story in England so far. At the Oval, they were being effortlessly enacted and painfully watched. It seemed India’s batting elite were saving their worst for last. Worst, only if they don’t get any worse in the second innings.
It all looked eerily familiar when Gautam Gambhir and Murali Vijay walked out to be bat against James Anderson and Stuart Broad under overcast conditions. The trauma of last week’s batting collapse seemed as fresh in their minds as the green pitch and the grey morning. The next hour and a half showed that India’s Gen Next batsmen weren’t yet ready for away tours, top quality seam and swing bowling and, definitely not for a five-match Test series. They hadn’t been able to rectify