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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleComedian launches stinging attack on PM
Life and Style
The collection displayed Versace’s softer side, with models wearing flowers and chiffon dresses in unusual colourings
fashionVersace haute couture review
News
Andy Murray shakes hands after defeating Andreas Seppi of Italy in the third round of Wimbledon, Saturday 4 July, 2015
Wimbledon
Arts and Entertainment
'The Leaf'
artYes, it's a leaf, but a potentially very expensive one
News
Yoko Ono at the Royal Festival Hall for Double Fantasy Live
people'I wont let him destroy memory of John Lennon or The Beatles'
News
Could Greece leave the EU?
news
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

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'