Swann’s success made it the complete series for England, where everyone played a key role in either setting up, positioning or securing a victory. This was a display of attacking offspin of the highest quality, although the wide smile he wore when he savoured his fifth wicket, as Gautam Gambhir sliced to backward point, and his sixth to complete victory, hadn’t been so evident during the earlier part of the day. All the frustration, though, vanished in a clatter of wickets.
By batting through the morning without further loss, India had managed their first wicketless session of the series, increasing the prospects of a draw that would have salvaged a modicum of pride. However, that was being overshadowed by the progress of Tendulkar towards the century that would have completed his 100th international hundred – the landmark that has stalked him throughout the series. It continued to prove elusive.
Tim Bresnan, with his first ball of new spell, swung one back into Tendulkar, who was hit on the pad, and Rod Tucker raised his finger. Replays showed it was clipping leg stump. It hadn’t been a classic Tendulkar innings by any means, but the fact he’d had at least three lives raised the belief that it was to be his day.
The previous evening, England had failed to appeal for a stumping when Tendulkar momentarily lifted his foot, and two further opportunities were missed on the final day. Alastair Cook dropped a relatively straightforward chance at short leg when Tendulkar had 70, and Matt Prior shelled a thick edge with him on 85. During a wonderful contest with Swann, there was also an lbw appeal from a missed sweep that, had there been the DRS and England had reviewed, would have been overturned. The look on Tendulkar’s face when he was finally given suggested he too would have reviewed given the chance, but it wouldn’t have mattered.
To highlight that Tendulkar’s innings wasn’t fluent, it was Mishra who dominated the partnership and caused England, possibly, the greater headache. His second Test fifty had come from 103 balls, and he used his feet against Swann, while playing leg-side shots off the quicks that wouldn’t have looked out of place coming off Tendulkar’s bat.
For all his failings with the ball, Mishra showed tremendous application with the bat that has been missing from some of his team-mates. For a while it appeared he may even beat his partner to three figures but Swann’s persistence paid off when a delivery scooted past the edge. Mishra’s presence, and the missed chances off Tendulkar, had certainly got England hot under the collar and Andrew Strauss was given an official warning for his players walking across the pitch.
England’s on-field temper can still boil over, but it showed the hunger to win. The final two days of this match were of terrific value to them, even if the foot-sore bowlers might not agree, because Test victories shouldn’t come easily. To be made to work, as they were yesterday by Rahul Dravid and today by Tendulkar and Mishra, and to come through with victory, will stand them in good stead.
England know how to sense an opening and continued to surge through line-up. Suresh Raina completed a horror match as he was given lbw to complete a pair, which used up 42 deliveries, although it was a poor decision from Simon Taufel. There was an inside edge before pad and the ball was also heading over the stumps.
The new ball was taken straight away – Swann had said he preferred a harder ball on this surface as well – and the hosts’ Man-of-the-Series Stuart Broad, who was the pick of England’s quicks on the final day, made swift inroads. MS Dhoni flashed an edge to second slip and three balls later RP Singh edged behind. The only question now was whether India would at least make England bat again.
Even that proved too much as Swann wrapped up the innings against batsmen who had decided to have a swing. Sreesanth was the last to fall, heaving an inside edge on to the stumps to send England into another round of celebrations. It was a familiar scene in this series, a run of performances that will go down in the game’s history as one of the most dominant displays. England have set a benchmark for this generation of Test cricket and now others need to follow suit.