In the end, England were so ruthless in their dismantling of the No. 1 Test side that it was hard to believe India had been in match-winning positions twice in the first two days. Before the fourth day was over in Nottingham, England had secured the two-match lead they need to win the series by to move to the top of the ICC rankings. Their lower-order batsmen ransacked a hapless bowling and fielding outfit, before their fast bowlers demolished India with venom the Nottingham crowd hadn't witnessed since Stuart Broad's hat-trick on the second evening. England had broken India and the upshot was victory by 319 runs, the largest margin in Tests after conceding a first-innings lead.
Several England players have queued up to perform starring roles this series, and today the unlikeliest of them all took his turn. Tim Bresnan, who was selected only because Chris Tremlett was hamstrung, tenderised batsmen with accurate short-pitched bowling and his career-best performance of 5 for 48 helped blow India away for 158. His spell came after he had bashed the ball around Trent Bridge during a partnership of 82 with Broad at a run-rate of 6.30. Bresnan helped England score 103 runs in 19.2 overs and extend their lead from 374 to 477.
Like their bowlers and fielders during England's second innings, India's batsmen showed no fight after they began the improbable task of surviving more than five sessions. Rather, England didn't let them fight. Andrew Strauss's team was streets ahead of India in terms of strength, fitness and preparation and that widened the gulf in form between the sides.
James Anderson should have reprised his first-innings success of striking first ball, but Abhinav Mukund's edge was dropped at slip. England, however, did not have to wait long, and Stuart Broad snagged the bigger fish. During the 30 minutes he had to survive before lunch, Rahul Dravid, India's best batsman on tour, edged Broad to Matt Prior. India were 8 for 1 at the break.
When play resumed, Anderson took out India's other second-innings pillar, bowling VVS Laxman with the perfect delivery. It drew the batsman forward, straightened off the pitch, beat the outside edge and still managed to uproot off stump. Laxman was left looking wide-eyed and bewildered. India were 13 for 2. And then it was over to Bresnan, who sent down short ball after short ball at batsmen ill-equipped to cope with such a hostile attack.
He had Abhinav fending helplessly at a bouncer that lobbed off the glove to slip. He had Raina caught at long leg, playing an uncontrolled hook against a rising delivery. And after softening Yuvraj, who was hit on the body several times, Bresnan had him caught at slip too. Yuvraj had also fended haplessly, unaware that Alastair Cook had caught the ball until he saw the celebrations begin. Bresnan then dismissed MS Dhoni first ball, lbw after the Indian captain offered no shot. India were 68 for 6 at lunch.
Of the specialist batsmen, only Sachin Tendulkar had resisted. He had begun his innings positively, driving down the ground repeatedly, but the speed of his scoring plummeted as the carnage unfolded at the other end. Tendulkar, however, only achieved his 60th half-century and not his 100th hundred. After he too was lbw, padding up to an Anderson inswinger, England were always going to win before stumps. Broad, who had twice rescued England with bat and ball, fittingly took the final wicket, bowling Sreesanth in the 48th over.
The fourth day had begun as the third had ended - with India hunting leather. Bresnan, who had resumed on 47, reached his half-century with an edge that flew over the cordon to third man, which remained empty despite a glut of runs in the region. Prior, who batted aggressively last evening, also hit consecutive fours - a glance to fine leg and a cover drive off Praveen. He didn't last long though, edging Praveen to Dhoni to end the seventh-wicket stand on 119 off 20 overs.
Broad, however, gave India no respite. He and Bresnan, whose driving when offered full and wide deliveries was sublime, ran India ragged. Dhoni also turned to his part-time spinners - Yuvraj and Raina. Yuvraj dropped short on the off side and Broad clobbered him repeatedly towards the cover boundary. When Raina pitched short, Broad heaved consecutive deliveries into the cheering masses beyond the midwicket boundary. It was brutal.
The partnership ended on 82 because of a rare moment of brilliance in the field. Broad pushed towards cover and set off for the single. The fielder rushed in, swooped on the ball and threw at the bowler's end in one flowing motion, scoring a direct hit that caught Broad short. That fielder was Wriddhiman Saha, the substitute. The rest of India's fielders were utterly exposed. Bresnan and Broad only needed to place the ball slightly wide of the fielders to reach the boundary. India had not looked this outclassed on a cricket field in recent memory.