England vs India third Test match report: Moeen Ali stars with five wickets as England finally break winless streak to level series

England 569-7 dec & 205-4 dec beat India 330 & 178 by 266 runs

The Ageas Bowl

After a long year of failure and incompetence which seemed as though it might never end, England delivered an impeccable exhibition of the Test-match arts. It is much too premature to suggest that they are back to where they were, or even that they have turned the corner on the way there, but their victory over India by 266 runs in the third Test here was both clinical and beguiling.

It arrived 12 minutes before lunch on the fifth day, about two hours before anyone thought probable, and levels the Investec Test series at 1-1. England won every session of the match, played more positively than their opponents and made fewer errors.

Jimmy Anderson, their argumentative fast bowler who faces an International Cricket Council (ICC) disciplinary hearing tomorrow, was man of the match for the second time in the series for a wonderfully controlled display of swing bowling. It yielded seven wickets and was compelling in its artistry. Most of the damage on the final morning, however, was inflicted by Moeen Ali, who took four wickets to finish with 6 for 67.

Moeen was brought into the side at the start of this season as a batsman and part-time off spinner, but the quality of his craft has burgeoned. He did not turn the ball much during India’s second innings but his controlled drift disturbed men who, it was thought, would play him with a bamboo stick. He might as well have been a snake charmer.

The figures were almost a match for the career-best haul of 6 for 65 achieved by Graeme Swann, his much vaunted predecessor as the lead spinner in the side. England are anxiously trying not to make too much of Moeen’s success, but the feeling is beginning to grow that he might cut the mustard as the side’s authentic spin option. The search for that is definitely on hold. He has 15 wickets in the series. Only Anderson has more.

Above all, the match was a triumph for England’s Alastair Cook, who after five days of cricket suddenly seems not so much beleaguered as riding on a white charger to glory. He scored 95 and 70 not out, which might take to 29 his run of innings without a century but was sufficient to indicate a return to form. As captain, it seemed to make him more confident and almost all he did worked. The fact that the bowlers responded, doubtless encouraged by conditions where there was always a hint of swing movement, helped him immensely.

But what a game of narrow margins it is. Had Cook been held at first slip on the first morning when he was on 15, as he should have been, the effect might have pervaded the whole team. As it is, he was dropped by Ravindra Jadeja and never repeated the lapse. His calculated policy of playing as far forward as he could with a studiously straight bat paid handsome dividends.

The fourth Test begins at Old Trafford next Thursday, giving the players the longest break between matches of the series. Still, that does not mean they will have time to draw breath. England have named an unchanged 13-man squad for the match, knowing that they might be without Anderson if he is found guilty of a level three breach of the ICC code of conduct, which could bring him a four-match Test ban.

The evidence so far suggests that these are two evenly matched sides but India were too often careless with the bat, frequently less than searching with the ball and error-strewn in the field. The fact that their captain, MS Dhoni, said after the match that the best catchers they had were in the slip cordon does not mean they are yet good enough.

It was generally expected that England would have to work long and hard for the six wickets they still required today. Anderson, bowling with zip and accuracy immediately, swiftly gave the lie to that prognosis. With his third ball of the day he persuaded Rohit Sharma to dab at a ball going away outside off stump. Jos Buttler was presented with a straightforward catch.

Four overs later, Anderson had the prized wicket of Dhoni, who played away from his body. It might have been a batsman’s error but there is something about Anderson in this mood which makes him hard to resist.

Just as it seemed that Anderson would sweep the tourists aside, along came Moeen. In rapid succession he took the last four wickets to fall in 23 balls, all with deliveries that did not appear to turn. Jadeja’s drive at a full ball went through bat and pad; Bhuvneshwar Kumar was held at short leg off bat and pad, undone by drift; Mohammed Shami lunged at a straight one and was bowled. Finally, the entertaining Pankaj Singh swiped a couple of boundaries and was then bowled expecting spin where there was none.

At the other end, Chris Woakes was denied a wicket. This was unfair of the cricketing gods for this was an extremely tidy performance by Woakes and his superiors in the side were quick to pay due credit.

The rest was a dash for souvenir stumps. Since six members of the side had never appeared in a winning team in a Test match there were just enough to go round.

Between now and Thursday the mood could change again. If Anderson is found guilty for whatever he was supposed to have done to Jadeja in the pavilion at Trent Bridge on the second day of the Test there, England will miss him at Old Trafford and be distinctly miffed about it. If he is cleared, he plays and the spring will stay in their step.

Whatever happens, England may like to rethink slightly the way in which they approach the game. Anderson is entitled to his grumpiness but the way he bowled in Southampton was electrifying. It does not need attitude.

News
Lois Pryce... Life Without a Postcode. Lois lives on a boat with her husband.. Registering to vote in the election has prooved to be very difficult without a fixed residential post code. (David Sandison)
newsHow living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Sport
Steven Fletcher scores the second goal for Scotland
cricketBut they have to bounce back to beat Gibraltar in Euro 2016 qualifier
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing