England sealed a 4-0 series rout of India with an innings and eight-run victory at The Oval as Sachin Tendulkar fell just short of an unprecedented 100th international hundred.
India, who needed 291 runs to make the hosts bat again, frustrated England during a fourth-wicket partnership of 144 between Tendulkar, who made 91, and Amit Mishra. But when Mishra was out for a Test-best 84, it was the start of a collapse that saw India lose seven wickets for 21 runs on the way to 283 all out.
Off-spinner Graeme Swann, at last presented with a pitch taking turn this series, did the bulk of the damage with six for 106 to the delight of the majority of a sell-out 23,500 crowd.
It was the first time England had swept a four-match series since a 4-0 home whitewash of the West Indies in 2004.
Unsurprisingly, England captain Andrew Strauss was a visibly pleased man.
“It was Swann’s day,” said the opening batsman. “We knew it was going to be hard work but there was time for us to get them out. Ian Bell’s innings was the best I’ve seen him play and that put us ahead.”
India resumed on the final day on 129 for three, still 162 runs shy of England’s first-innings 591 for six declared featuring Bell’s Test-best 235 and Kevin Pietersen’s 175. Tendulkar and Mishra kept the hosts at bay during a wicketless morning session.
There was further frustration for Swann and England when Tendulkar was dropped on 85.
But Swann made the breakthrough an increasingly anxious England wanted when Mishra, playing for turn that never came, was bowled, having easily surpassed his previous Test-best of 50 against Bangladesh last year.
It was another fine effort with the bat by Mishra who made 43 in a first-innings 300 featuring Rahul Dravid’s 146 not out after taking no wickets for a hugely expensive 170 runs with his leg-spinners.
Tendulkar though seemed set to complete his ton of tons. But nine runs short the 38-year-old was lbw to Tim Bresnan.
Australian umpire Rod Tucker took his time before raising his finger, with replays indicating the ball would have just clipped the top of leg stump.
Tendulkar, walked off to a standing ovation after his best score of the series, topping his 57 in the second Test at Trent Bridge.
Wickets then tumbled in quick succession, with Suresh Raina lbw to Swann to complete a 42-ball pair before captain MS Dhoni drove loosely at Stuart Broad.
“We tried our best and that’s what is important,” said Dhoni. “They played really well. There was no complacency but we didn’t get much time before the series started.
“It’s important to stay together as a unit. Knowing that the expectations are always high, the team has to stay together and fight.”
Broad was named England’s man of the series by India coach Duncan Fletcher while his counterpart chose Rahul Dravid as India’s man of the series.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 23rd, 2011.