England collapse gifts India win

India celebrate the wicket of Stuart Broad, left, on day five at Lord's

India celebrate the wicket of Stuart Broad, left, on day five at Lord's

First published in National Sport News © by

England collapsed to a 95-run defeat at Lord's, to concede a 1-0 Investec series lead and pile ever more pressure on their captain Alastair Cook.

The hosts lost their last six wickets for 50 runs - an implosion Cook in particular could ill afford as the admirable earlier work of Joe Root (66) and Moeen Ali (39) was squandered in an unending pickle once Ishant Sharma (seven for 74) resorted to the short ball.

Root and Moeen raised expectations of an unlikely assault on England's all-time second-highest run chase, with a century stand for the fifth wicket, but those fanciful notions came crashing down in a flurry of mis-pulls.

Moeen was first to go, not to a pull but a gloved catch to short-leg from the final ball before lunch.

Then England's descent became swiftly terminal when Root followed Matt Prior and Ben Stokes back in a Sharma spell of four wickets for nine runs in early afternoon.

The transitory optimism of 173 for four therefore dissolved horribly to 223 all out, in pursuit of 319.

Cook was already a spent force in the run chase before start of play, having gone caught behind to Ishant the previous evening.

He could therefore only watch an especially cruel denouement as hopes rose and were then summarily dashed by another abdication from his team.

Something had to give in this second Test, between two sets of opponents curiously unused to winning.

India had not done so in 15 consecutive away Tests, while England were on a run of nine - including, of course, their embarrassing Ashes whitewash last winter - without success.

In the end, it was they who proved they have forgotten most how to win - a fact which will add substantially to those suggesting the best remedy is for a badly out-of-form Cook to relinquish his leadership role.

It did not seem that way for almost the entirety of the morning.

Root and Moeen shut out India for all but one ball of a gripping session, adding only 68 runs but with relatively few alarms - given the occupational perils of turn and uneven bounce on a last-day pitch.

Moeen was under way with a cover-driven four off Ishant, and an over later edged the tall seamer well short and through third slip for another boundary.

When Root edged Ishant, on 17 off the back foot, he was thankful that Mahendra Singh Dhoni had set first slip Shikhar Dhawan deep and the ball was collected on the bounce only.

England's two likeliest lads duly chalked off their 50 and then century partnership as heavy cloud cover gradually started to lift.

Dhoni, who began the day by pairing Ravindra Jadeja's left-arm spin with Ishant, turned to Bhuvneshwar Kumar - who had taken six first-innings wickets.

There were no easy pickings for Kumar this time, but his metronomic accuracy and hint of swing dried up the runs.

Root responded by using his feet and cashed in England's first boundary in 15 overs when he found an inch or two of width, from up the wicket, and cracked the ball past cover on the up.

Moeen was on 30 for 44 minutes, and 27 balls, but England knew if they could preserve wickets their reward would be victory rather than stalemate.

To that end, Root greeted the return of Ishant with three off-side fours in the over to take his boundary count to just five as he completed his three-hour 50 in 122 balls.

But when Dhoni switched tactics, Ishant trying to bounce rather than bowl out the batsmen, first Root was discomforted - and then, on the stroke of lunch, Moeen failed to deal with the new line of attack.

Prior lasted until the fourth over of early afternoon, after Ishant went round the wicket to him.

It was a hammer blow for England, with the second new ball immediately available, when their wicketkeeper-batsman pulled straight into the hands of one of three men stationed for that very mistake in the leg-side deep.

Stokes then continued a near runless streak of just 18 in his last 10 international innings, when he made his sixth duck in that sequence, mis-pulling Ishant to mid-on.

All fading chances therefore rested on Root, but his attempt to wrest back any initiative would also founder on the pull shot against Ishant when he picked out deep square-leg.

The remaining business was a formality, for the record Stuart Broad gloving Ishant behind down the leg-side before the embarrassment was complete when James Anderson was last out in an appropriately tragi-comic run-out and a direct hit from his nemesis Jadeja.

By then Cook, along with a few million other Englishman, could be forgiven for being no longer willing or even able to watch.

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