England vs India: Moeen Ali excels as England close in on victory

Day Four: England 569-7 dec & 205-4 dec v India 330 & 112-4

The Ageas Bowl

For reasons seemingly beyond rational explanation, England have played superbly this week. Like something resembling an authentic international team. A few days ago, they looked a ragtag bunch of ne’er do wells, incapable of winning or of intelligent tactical thought.

The transformation is hardly complete but if they can secure victory tomorrow in the third Investec Test and level the series at 1-1 it will feed their conviction and belief. Much has gone their way in this match, they have had slices of luck but they have batted, bowled and fielded with a skill and gusto that looked beyond them at Lord’s.

There is still some work to be done but with the first four batsmen dismissed even a long Indian batting order must have surrendered all hope of winning and going 2-0 up in the series. To do so would require the largest fourth innings chase in Test history.

At the close of the fourth day, the tourists were 112 for 4, undermined largely and doubtless to their grave embarrassment by England’s vaguely ramshackle spin attack of Moeen Ali and Joe Root. Somehow, with every spell that he bowls, Moeen is defying the sceptics. He may look innocuous, he may very well be innocuous but he continues to take wickets against batsmen who are supposedly the most accomplished players of slow bowlers around.

On a lovely sun-kissed evening, Ali dismissed two of them with balls that went straight on – and was rewarded with two outstanding catches at slip and wicketkeeper respectively. Root snaffled another with a conventionally turning off break, followed by an edge. The run out of Murali Vijay, responding too slowly to a call for a quick single and beaten by Stuart Broad’s underarm throw, prompted what followed.

England have made the running throughout this contest. The runs of their captain, Alastair Cook, on the first day after he should have been caught on 15, may have been the catalyst for everything that followed. He and his team might suddenly have felt a sense of relief and freedom instead of being shackled, contained and prone to silly errors. What they have to do now is finish the job.

Cook made his second fifty of the match today as England went in pursuit of quick runs for a declaration. He did not score as quickly as he might have done but the efforts of his colleagues compensated for that. His unbeaten 70 will still the doubters a little more and the win a little more after that.

James Anderson is congratulated by Chris Jordan after taking the wicket of M.S Dhoni (Getty) James Anderson is congratulated by Chris Jordan after taking the wicket of M.S Dhoni (Getty)
The form of Jimmy Anderson may be crucial to tomorrow’s proceedings. It may not, of course, if Ali and Root continue to run rampant. In the past few days Anderson has rediscovered a zip and length to complement his masterful manipulation of a cricket ball. It was his 32nd birthday today and he took the two crucial remaining wickets in the morning to ensure that India’s tail did not detain England too long.

Both were captured with judicious use of the short ball to give England a lead of 239, the fifth time in five Tests this summer they have been ahead on first innings, so far without a solitary win to show for it.

Anderson, who has not often seemed happy lately, has much on his shoulders and probably on his mind at present.

On Friday, he faces a serious level three charge under the ICC code of conduct which could lead to his being banned for four Test matches. While Anderson will vigorously deny any wrongdoing, or at least any wrongdoing that was not in self defence during a lunchtime spat with the Indian spinner, Ravindra Jadeja in the first Test at Trent Bridge, it is known that India will prosecute their case robustly.

Were Anderson to be convicted, England would doubtless appeal. There is a distinct feeling, reinforced by his performances here, that they cannot do without him. They would be wise to use him sparingly. Evidence of the recent past indicates that Anderson is always a spell away from being jaded.

It was with giving rest to their bowlers in mind that England declined to enforce the follow on despite needing only 31 balls to finish India off. The fashion seems to be bat again these days. Since 2000, England have had 24 opportunities of enforcing the follow on. They have done so 17 times, won 14 and drawn three and not done so seven times, winning six and drawing once when they were one wicket away from victory. Thus, the evidence is that they tend to win either way.

The prerequisite was for England to rattle along, to ensure they had enough overs on a gentle pitch to put constant pressure on their opponents. Cook and Sam Robson opened brightly. It was Robson’s bad luck that he received a peach of an away swinger from Buvneshwar Kumar at which he had to play. Caught at first slip, however, it did nothing to allay the well-founded suspicion of his frailty outside off stump.

Cook was not for hurrying and when he tried to slog, it looked at odds with his usual style. But Gary Ballance, Ian Bell and Joe Root all did exactly as was necessary,

Ballance, going serenely and moving into top gear early for once to meet the demands of the match, was adjudged to be caught. For the second time in the match replays show that his bat was a long way from making contact with the ball. There have been several umpiring errors in the match, some more understandable than others. All could have been overturned had review system been place.

It is to Ballance’s credit that in neither instance of his being wronged did he so much as glare imploringly at the umpire. He merely stood for a moment to register his disbelief, turned and went. What he might have done on his return to the dressing room is (as yet) unknown but it was a model way to react to a dodgy decision.

Bell and Root were both out sweeping but by then they had both themselves enjoyed hugely. Whisper it, but England seem to be enjoying life again.

News
Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits