Brilliance of Bell magnified by abject India

Double hundred a pleasure to watch before Swann turns the screw and tourists' predictable demise follows shambolic display in the field

The Oval

The question is now being asked regularly. How good are this England team?To which the answer is "very good indeed" and "considerably better than their woeful opponents in this series".

It has been wonderful to watch England this past month, remorselessly and spectacularly grinding down India. Unfortunately, it has been rather less marvellous to see India, a side all too willing to be ground down.

Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells and probably Mad As Hell from Tadcaster will be writing letters about it, because the feeling is universal. This is not what was promised on the packet and it has been far from it, an epic that has fallen flat.

The two sessions of play possible yesterday were starkly contrasting. England made 134 in the first, Ian Bell completing his alluring maiden double hundred, and then declared at 591 for 6. India then staggered to 103 for 5, their only resistance supplied, as it has been throughout, by Rahul Dravid.

It took all of six balls for the first wicket to fall. Poor Virender Sehwag, out first ball in both innings at Edgbaston, at least scored eight this time. Four more wickets followed as night follows day, including that of Sachin Tendulkar, whose 100th international century continues to prove elusive in a profoundlydisappointing series.

By the time play ended India had reduced the deficit to 488, about as mountainous as the gap between these teams. Graeme Swann, with three wickets, was casting a spell for the first time in the series.

The tourists came here as the No 1-ranked Test side, not to mention being World Cup winners. They have signally failed to justify either the rating or the billing and have paid for it by surrendering their place at the top of the Test charts to their opponents.

England were already out of sight when the third day of the Fourth Test began, and the horizon simply kept moving further away. The rain that prevented play in the second session merely reduced India's chances of losing the match, thus preventing the series scoreline of 4-0 that both sides, for different reasons, deserve.

The day's first session merely allowed England to extend their first innings. India did not bring along the silver plate on which they have handed England most sessionsin the past few weeks, but theirbowling was still innocuous, their fielding shambolic.

Without any alarm and with much panache, Bell cruised to his first Test double hundred. He had been denied by one run three years ago, when he made 199 against South Africa at Lord's, but Bell is different now. "Ding dong," as the great Leslie Phillips might say.

The shot of the morning was a crisp straight drive for four, the one that brought up the milestone was a leg glance to the boundary. It was the 51st double hundred by an England batsman and the fourth this season, all by different batsmen.

Without denigrating the others and bearing in mind Kevin Pietersen's pyrotechnics at Lord's (and latterly at The Oval on Friday), this was the most glorious. Bell is now conveying the impression that he can achieve in the game all that was said to be possible when he was a kid of 12.

Bell was out lbw, missing a sweep against Suresh Raina, the occasional off-spinner who had accounted for Pietersen on Friday evening. Matt Prior and Ravi Bopara then added a dashing 44.

Bopara looked at home in the Test environment at last. It was as if he had convinced himself that he must go out and play as he knows and to heck with the consequences. The result was pleasant and although the circumstances were propitious tothe point of batting on a bed of roses, such an assured cameo may make a difference to his future prospects.

Presumably, England's plan was to bat on until mid-afternoon, by which time they might have reached 650 or 700, given the paucity of what was in front of them. As it was, this was only the second time they had made above 500 in three consecutive Test innings. It is what is known in the dressing room as scoreboard pressure, and India felt its hot breath on their collaras soon as they went out.

Sehwag left his first two balls alone outside off stump, to enormous relief. Nobody, least of all such an adornment to the game, deserved the ignominy of three ducks in a row. When he punched the third and fourth balls for four past point it seemed the splendour of Virender might be back. But he played across the last ball of the over, which nipped back, and was plainly leg before.

There was no hope for VVS Laxman, an electrifying, charming player who is completely out of sorts. It was a decent ball from StuartBroad which got him, a good length, bouncing, moving away, but Laxman could hardly wait to follow it.

Which brought together the old warriors, Dravid and Tendulkar. They settled down to business, imperturbable, taking runs when they presented themselves.

Tendulkar had hit four off Swann when he swept at the next ball and gloved it behind, where Anderson, running from first slip, held the catch. Raina spent 29 balls without scoring before he was stumped to give Swann his second wicket. Ishant Sharma, the nightwatchman, gave him his third.

It was as sad as it was predictable.

The Oval scoreboard

England won toss

England – First Innings (Overnight 457-3: K P Pietersen 175)

I R Bell lbw b Raina 235/364/23/2

J M Anderson c Laxman b Sreesanth 13/26/2/0

E J G Morgan c Dhoni b Sreesanth 1/10/0/0

R S Bopara not out 44/75/3/0

†M J Prior not out 18/28/2/0

Extras (b6 lb8 w7 nb10) 31

Total (for 6 dec, 153 overs) 591

Fall (cont): 4-480, 5-487, 6-548.

Did not bat T T Bresnan, S C J Broad, G P Swann.

Bowling R P Singh 34-7-118-0, I Sharma 31-7-97-1, S Sreesanth 29-2-123-3, S K Raina 19-2-58-2, A Mishra 38-3-170-0, S R Tendulkar 2-0-11-0.

India – First Innings

V Sehwag lbw b Anderson 8/6/2/0

R Dravid not out 57/108/9/0

V V S Laxman c Prior b Broad 2/7/0/0

S R Tendulkar c Anderson b Swann 23/34/4/0

S K Raina st Prior b Swann 0/29/0/0

I Sharma c Cook b Swann 1/9/0/0

MS Dhoni not out 5/5/1/0

Extras (lb5 w2) 7

Total (for 5, 33 overs) 103

Fall 1-8, 2-13, 3-68, 4-93, 5-95.

To bat G Gambhir, A Mishra, S Sreesanth, R P Singh.

Bowling J M Anderson 5-1-21-1, S C J Broad 10-1-22-1, T T Bresnan 7-0-25-0, G P Swann 10-3-27-3, K P Pietersen1-0-3-0.

Umpires S J A Taufel (Aus) and R J Tucker (Aus).

TV Umpire S J Davis (Aus).

Match referee R S Madugalle (SL).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'