England crush India to take the top Test-spot
It had been inevitable for much of the previous three days but England officially became the No. 1 Test team in the world, with one of their most crushing victories, to end India's stay at the top by a clinical innings-and-242-run margin.
It had been inevitable for much of the previous three days but England officially became the No. 1 Test team in the world, with one of their most crushing victories, to end India's stay at the top by a clinical innings-and-242-run margin. The fourth day didn't even last until tea as the visitors were dispatched for 244 after James Anderson ripped the top off the batting before Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad chipped in.
In theory India had the line-up to at least make England toil for victory, but in reality they have looked a beaten side throughout this match. When Gautam Gambhir and Rahul Dravid fell within the first four overs of the day it was clear Sunday wouldn't be required although at least India went down swinging as Praveen Kumar clubbed 40 off 18 balls - momentarily looking on course for the fastest Test half-century - and MS Dhoni continued his return to form with an unbeaten 74.
Yet all it did was delay the inevitable and when Sreesanth fended at Tim Bresnan, Kevin Pietersen held the catch at gully and England went top of the pile. Although the tables weren't introduced until 2003 back-dating shows it's the first time they have been No. 1 since 1979 although that was only a brief stay before West Indies, who had been severely depleted due to the Packer-era, took back their crown.
India, meanwhile, lose their title after a stint of 21 months and will have to dig very deep to try and salvage pride at The Oval. If they lose the series 4-0 they will be down to third. Sachin Tendulkar was the only one of the top six to really show the hunger for a fight and had moved to 40 when Dhoni drove towards Swann, who got his right hand to ball, deflecting it into the stumps with Tendulkar's bat on the line. While it's always a tough way to fall, Tendulkar had backed up a long way which leaves the chance of such a dismissal. Regardless, though, Tendulkar wouldn't have saved the match for India because of the earlier damage inflicted in the first hour.
Anderson didn't wait long to make an impression when he found Gautam Gambhir's outside edge with his first ball of the day as the left-hander offered a catch to Swann at second slip. Gambhir has shown in the past the ability to occupy the crease - he cited his 436-ball innings at Napier as how India could save this game - but with him removed early the pressure was squarely on Dravid and, of course, Tendulkar. Dravid, though, did not last long but his dismissal appeared to throw up a bizarre set of circumstances.
When he played forward to Anderson's outswinger, the noise suggested a clear outside edge and Simon Taufel gave the decision. However, subsequent replays showed that the sound didn't quite match the pictures and it appeared Dravid's shoelace may have flicked the bottom of his bat. Dravid could have reviewed but didn't take the option and whether there would have been enough clear evidence to overturn will never be known.
India were 40 for 3 and sinking fast. Tendulkar gave momentary relief with a couple of sweet drives, but VVS Laxman was given a tough time by England's fast bowlers. Anderson's swing and Broad's extra bounce kept him on nought for 16 balls before Anderson produced another fine delivery to take the outside edge.
Broad, meanwhile, tried to take advantage of Tendulkar's problems with the sightscreen behind the bowler's arm. In a similar manner to Andrew Flintoff against Jacques Kallis in 2008, Tendulkar was having trouble picking up deliveries from a set of dark windows and Broad probed away with a series of very full balls as he tried to squeeze under Tendulkar's bat.
Tendulkar, though, responded with a fighting effort although a few of his drives came with a hint of frustration - even anger? - at India's position. The wait for the 100th hundred carries on until at least The Oval and there is a growing sense that it isn't meant to happen in this series.
Before Swann's literal hand in Tendulkar's scalp, he'd been brought on to target Suresh Raina and it was an absorbing, if brief, battle. Raina should have gone for 1, but Andrew Strauss couldn't hold a low chance at gully as Swann tried to add to his lean tally of two wickets in the series. Raina didn't hold back, crunching a straight drive past Swann's right hand then driving over cover, but Swann had the final say when he gained an lbw decision from Steve Davis.
Raina wasn't happy, and even signalled for a review having forgotten they can't be used for lbws, but replays confirmed Davis was spot on with the ball hitting middle and leg. The fact Raina even considered the DRS showed his frazzled mindset. Swann claimed his second shortly after lunch when Amit Mishra was well caught and mid-off but his figures then suffered at the hands of Praveen.
Swann's next four overs cost 55 as a fifty stand between Praveen and Dhoni was raised in 28 balls of free swinging to ensure no record defeat for India. The fun ended when Broad was recalled and immediately had Praveen, whose right thumb had been given a battering, caught at cover. Dhoni continued to show the fight that has been so lacking from India, but it had long since become a forlorn effort. His team has had their time at the top, for the time being at least, and now that's England's honour. The next challenge is to stay there.