SOUTHAMPTON - England captain Alastair Cook was delighted by his side’s dominant display after they beat India at Southampton on Thursday to record their first Test win in nearly a year.
Their crushing 266-run success saw England end a run of 10 Tests without a win as they levelled a five-match series with India at 1-1. “It was a good performance right from day one, I don’t think we lost a session,” Cook said. England were on top almost from the start in the third Test, piling up 569 for seven in their first innings.
They then dismissed India for 330 in reply, with man-of-the-match James Anderson taking five for 53. England scored quickly in their second innings to leave India needing a mammoth 445 to win only for the tourists to collapse to 178 all out with Moeen Ali, primarily a batsman, taking a Test-best six for 67 with his off-spinners. At least seven former England captains suggested in the build-up to this match that Cook should resign as skipper in a bid to rediscover his form with the bat. But at the Ageas Bowl the left-handed opener both oversaw a victory and ended a run of low scores by making 95 and 70 not out.
“It was getting to a crux situation, if it had carried on like that who knows what would have happened?,” Cook admitted. “One game does not change everything...I don’t know if my captaincy got dragged into it but when you are losing there will be focus on it.” Cook’s fellow senior England batsman Ian Bell also returned to form this match, top-scoring with 167 in the first innings — his first hundred in 20 Test innings. Debutant wicketkeeper Jos Buttler made a rapid 85 and also impressed behind the stumps after replacing the injured Matt Prior, who withdrew following India’s 95-run win in the second Test at Lord’s.
Turning to Ali, Cook said: “His bowling has come on leaps and bounds from the beginning of the summer. Credit to Mo, he’s worked incredibly hard. “He’s a bit part-time backing up (Pakistan’s) Saeed Ajmal at Worcestershire but he’s bowled a huge amount in the nets with the guys here.” Meanwhile Anderson, who voiced his uncertainty over a disciplinary hearing due on Friday regarding his first Test dust-up with India’s Ravindra Jadeja which could see him banned from the remaining matches this series at Old Trafford and The Oval, thanked England’s batsmen for laying the foundations of the hosts’ victory. “They batted very well and set the game up for us,” said Anderson, who saw Gary Ballance make a Test-best 156 in the first innings.
“Then we bowled well today and Moeen was outstanding.” India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was angered by the way in which his side lost wickets in clusters, culminating in a collapse that saw their final six wickets go down for 66 runs inside 25 overs before lunch on Thursday’s final day. “There were quite a few soft dismissals,” Dhoni said. “Moeen bowled well but we let him bowl well. It’s important to be positive against spinners.” India, without injured paceman Ishant Sharma, their seven-wicket hero at Lord’s who will also miss next week’s match in Manchester, fielded just four specialist bowlers in Southampton.
On a pitch that was always likely to take turn later on, they again left out off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, a tactic that suggested India would have been happy to settle for a draw. “We never used the fifth bowler in the first two Tests so I thought with Shikhar (Dhawan), Rohit (Sharma) and (Murali) Vijay around we would be able to use the batsmen who bowl a bit,” Dhoni explained. He added: “We’ll have to think about if for the next Test as the extra batsman didn’t really score anything — a lot will depend on the kind of wicket that’s provided.”