Birmingham: England confirmed they will go top of the ICC Test rankings for the first time at the end of this npower series, which they emphatically won with a game to spare by completing an innings-and-242-run victory over India at Edgbaston.
England – currently third, also behind South Africa – will knock India off their perch for the first time since December 2009 and move to the summit for the first time since the rankings were introduced in 2003.
They have utterly outplayed Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s side so far in this rubber and will whitewash the tourists with victory in the Kia Oval finale, which starts on Thursday.
Such has been the hosts’ dominance that a win here seemed just a matter of time when India resumed 451 behind with nine wickets left this morning, the fourth.
That proved to be the case as James Anderson tore through the top order in the first hour and Graeme Swann added another before running out Sachin Tendulkar in cruel fashion prior to lunch.
Dhoni launched a stunning counter-attack thereafter, adding 75 with Praveen Kumar inside eight overs to avoid India’s heaviest Test defeat.
It was predictably in vain, though, with Stuart Broad striking twice and Tim Bresnan taking the final wicket shortly after 3pm to leave Dhoni stranded on 74.
India began the day on 35 for one in reply to England’s mammoth first-innings 710 for seven declared, with hope only of maintaining their status at the rankings’ summit rather than keeping the series alive.
Anderson needed one less ball to remove Gautam Gambhir – Swann holding on at second slip – than he did to complete Virender Sehwag’s king pair yesterday.
Anderson, exploiting ideal seam bowling conditions, had Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman caught behind in identical fashion, with Tendulkar taking him for three fours between.
After Andrew Strauss ended Anderson’s six-over spell of 3-17, Suresh Raina survived on one when the captain could not hold the left-hander’s edge off Swann low at gully.
Tendulkar drove Bresnan for fours either side of the wicket and Raina repeated the trick off Swann, but the spinner trapped him in front next ball.
Tendulkar, out of luck searching for his 100th international century, followed for 40 when he was narrowly short of his ground at the non-striker’s end after Swann touched Dhoni’s drive.
Amit Mishra responded by bludgeoning Swann for four over midwicket and smashing Kevin Pietersen’s part-time spin for consecutive boundaries.
Mishra perished shortly after lunch, though, Broad taking a smart catch to his left at mid-on off Swann, who Praveen edged first ball over slip for four. Praveen was again fortunate when another nick – this time off Anderson – carried just over Swann at second slip.
With attack India’s only hope, Praveen smote Swann for a four and two sixes, consecutively, down the ground. In doing so, he ensured India avoided their heaviest Test loss.
Dhoni’s back-to-back leg-side fours off Anderson then heralded the half-century stand from only 28 balls.
Praveen lifted Swann for a maximum over midwicket before Matt Prior missed a chance to stump the tail-ender on 40 with 21 coming from the over, taking India past 200.
Prior’s miss was not costly as Kumar skied Broad, without further addition, to Ravi Bopara running round from mid-off.
Dhoni would not admit defeat, going to a fifty with the second of three fours in one Anderson over.
Broad had Ishant Sharma lbw before Dhoni hit Anderson, who took 4-85, out of the attack with two more boundaries.
The skipper continued to fight, but Bresnan ended the contest by having Sreesanth caught by Pietersen at gully with the total 244.
Result: England won by an innings and 242 runs.
Man Of The Match: Alastair Cook (England).
Comments by both captains and by man of the match:
MS Dhoni (Captain of India): “We need to see what limitations we have. A few of our players are not great fielders and we’re not the best looking fielding side in the world. What we’re really proud of is our bowling and batting. We have not been able to keep good deliveries out, it’s a major area of concern. We need to see out the good ones and make use of the loose deliveries. A couple of defeats doesn’t change anything I am still proud of my team. When you play for India there is a lot of expectation and people expect us to win everything but that’s not possible. Being No. 1 or not being No. 1 is not important, it’s all about being consistent. I’ve been quite happy with the preparation but it’s one of those series where nothing has really clicked for us.”
Andrew Strauss (Captain of England): ”It wasn’t a massive gamble to bowl first, there was probably less in the wicket than we thought there would be and by the time we batted the wicket had gone flat. The wickets have been shared around the bowlers and the pressure they have applied has been relentless, I don’t think there are many better in the world right now. It was fantastic to get runs myself and then sit on the sofa and watch Cookie bat for two days. He has amazing concentration and determination, he’s in this patch at the moment where he’s very clear what his game was and he’s an example for us all. Getting to No. 1 has been a goal for a long time and it fills me with a lot of pride to know we have completed something very special. We have had to work very had and the guys have put a lot of hard graft to get to No. 1.”
Alastair Cook (Man Of The Match): ”The work put in over the week off has paid dividends for me. Over the last 12 months scoring big hundreds was what I needed to work at and I’m glad that’s happened. You want the attacking middle order players to go at the tiring bowlers later in the day. I’m very pleased but it’s a huge team effort to bowl a team like that out for less than 250 on a flat wicket in both innings.”