Fourth Test: Ruthless England complete series whitewash

Another spectacular display from Andy Flower’s men gave England a resounding win at The Oval. Fresh from inheriting the number one test status from their opponents, the hosts continued their relentless dominance. Magnificent innings from Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen put India firmly on the back foot, allowing England’s bowlers to make inroads into India’s fragile batting line-up. Rahul Dravid’s unbeaten century was all to no avail, as India were forced to follow on, prompting Graeme Swann to spin England to an innings victory and put the gloss on a perfect series.

After a rain restricted first day, India uncharacteristically demonstrated real enthusiasm and energy in the field as Cook and Strauss fell early. This spirit soon evaporated due to a colossal stand between Bell and Pietersen, as the duo were advantageous of the lacklustre attack they were facing. An obvious contrast exists between the pair in styles and shot selection, but not in desire to contribute huge scores. Bell brought up three figures before tea, whereas Pietersen had to wait until the first ball of the evening session, as he pulled Sharma or four.

The third wicket pairing recorded 350, before Pietersen departed for 175 after he was athletically caught by Raina. Bell deservedly reached his maiden double century the following morning, before he was dismissed for 235. After dismal afternoon weather, England declared on 591-6 and wasted no time in claiming more Indian wickets.

Sehwag was planted leg before by Anderson in the first over and Broad had Laxman caught behind as India struggled to cope with England’s swing and intensity once more. The introduction of Swann, on a crumbling surface was the recipe for success for the hosts, as he picked up the wickets of Tendulkar, Raina and Sharma before the close, with India in deep trouble at 103-5.

Dravid was unbeaten at the beginning and end of the Indian innings as they reached 300 for the first time in a dreadful series for the visitors. Admirably, he battled to his third century of the series with some support from the tail with Mishra (43) and RP Singh (25). The former Indian skipper finished on 146 not out, but returned to the crease to resume his side’s second innings as England aimed for an innings victory.

And that’s exactly what England accomplished, as they took three further wickets in the last session of day four. The first of these was Dravid’s, whose stern resistance was broken after England reviewed an inside edge off Swann. His reputation has grown even higher after practically standing up to England’s potent attack by himself. Swann relished bowling on the turning Oval pitch and comprehensively bowled Sehwag through the gate, as England surged for a series whitewash. Anderson ripped Laxman’s offstump out of the ground for the final wicket of the day, with Tendulkar unbeaten on 34 at the close.

The Little Master resumed alongside Mishra, as they frustrated England’s bowlers in wicketless morning session, with the pair reaching fifties. Mishra showed the fighting spirit that has been sorely missing in the India side. Tendulkar survived close leg before appeals, and was dropped by Cook at short leg and Prior, both to Swann’s dismay. He looked certain to register a historic hundredth hundred, as he moved into the nineties, only to be dismissed by Bresnan, agonizingly for 91. Mishra was bowled by Swann in the previous over, with the offspinner completing a landmark of his own, his 150th test wicket.

England seized the momentum that was momentarily with India, as Swann reached his first five wicket haul of the summer. Raina again fell victim to his classy bowling, recording a pair in the process and ending a miserable series with the bat. England immediately took the new ball with Broad snaring the wickets of Dhoni and RP Singh in a single over. Swann took the remaining two wickets to seal a stunning innings triumph and record an astonishing series whitewash.

The staggering margins of England’s victories reflect what an outstanding test side they are, with match winning performances from a number of players. Confidence in the England camp is at an arguably all-time high, and they will be aiming to finish the summer off in style with five one-day internationals against the deflated Indians still to come.

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