As an individual event this torturous Test match will not linger long in the memory, but for what the end result enabled England to achieve will be chronicled as one of the team’s finest hours.
By batting out the final day with barely an alarm, largely through a 208-run stand between Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell, who both scored hundreds, England secured their first series win in India for 28 years.
India have significant weaknesses and problems that need to be addressed, but it has been England’s excellence over the last three games that has exposed those shortcomings. On the last day in Nagpur it was two batsmen earning redemption for relatively lean years that prevented any late nerves and added to the complete team nature of the performance.
Trott’s hundred, his eighth, was his first since March and for Bell, while also being his first hundred in India, it ended an even longer wait for three figures going back to The Oval against this opposition in 2011 at the end of what had threatened to be a low trip for him.
What was really extraordinary, though, is the turnaround, not only from a crushing defeat in Ahmedabad but also from a year that was on the brink of being their worst ever in Test cricket. Throw into the mix controversy surrounding their star batsman and a change of captain before this series and it is one of England’s finest achievements. Alastair Cook, who was able to watch contently from the dressing room during the final day, has laid down a high marker for his captaincy career.
India needed a couple of early wickets to send a few tremors through the England camp but they never threatened. The new ball was taken one over into the day without making a jot of difference. Barring a couple of sessions, this has been a Test devoid of excitement and low in the watchability stakes. England, of course, will not care in the slightest about that but pitches like this are far worse that the “result” surfaces that get the ICC twitchy. If it is not marked down the game’s priorities are wrong. However dead the surface, for Trott and Bell there was a job to do in the first session and they did it expertly. There was good intent from the pair in the first half an hour of the day to ensure the lead was soon in excess of 200 and getting out of sight of India.
Trott has played as freely as anyone in the game and twice drove Ravindra Jadeja beautifully through mid-on – or, in the second case, under mid-on as R Ashwin dived over the ball. His leg-side play was wonderfully elegant throughout the innings. He reached his hundred with two boundaries in three balls against Piyush Chawla, a cover drive followed by a trademark flick wide of mid-on, and allowed a little bit of emotion to come through his steely demeanour.
Trott had not reached three figures since the second innings against Sri Lanka in Galle earlier this year, and it was only his second hundred since making 203 against Sri Lanka in Cardiff in May 2011. However, he has continued to chip in, the average has only dipped and not plummeted, and once again England were immensely grateful to their rock-solid No. 3.
It did not look as though he was going to give away the chance to boost his statistics during the afternoon and it came as a surprise when he clipped Ashwin to leg slip shortly before tea, a few runs short of setting a new record fourth-wicket stand for England in India. That mark remains held by Andrew Strauss and Paul Collingwood, who added 214 in Chennai in 2008.
Trott’s Warwickshire team-mate, Bell, was equally composed in making his first major contribution of a difficult series, where his frailties in India had been exposed again. Although the situation was comfortable for England by lunch, that was not the case when Bell had come in at 94 for 3 so it was a strong display of character from him. His fifty, just the second he had scored in India, came with a straight drive off Ashwin as the off-side play that makes him so pleasing to watch when in form began to make an appearance.
He was given a life on 75 when Virender Sehwag spilled a catch at slip and he would have been run out for 97 by a direct hit from square leg. For much of the afternoon he eked along at a pace befitting this match, but started using his feet to Jadeja, lofting him for a straight six followed by a slightly scuffed boundary over mid-on.
ENGLAND 1st innings 330
INDIA 1st innings 326
ENGLAND 2nd innings
IJL Trott c Kohli b Ashwin 143
KP Pietersen b Jadeja 6
IR Bell not out 116
JE Root not out 20
EXTRAS (b 8, lb 6, nb 6) 20
TOTAL (4 wickets dec; 154 overs; 578 mins) 352 (2.28 runs per over)
DID NOT BAT MJ Prior†, TT Bresnan, GP Swann, JM Anderson, MS Panesar
FALL OF WICKETS 1-48 (Cook, 29.5 ov), 2-81 (Compton, 46.4 ov), 3-94 (Pietersen, 55.5 ov), 4-302 (Trott, 134.1 ov)
I Sharma 15-3-42-0, PP Ojha 40-14-70-1, R Ashwin 38-11-99-2, PP Chawla 26-6-64-0,
RA Jadeja33-17-59-1, G Gambhir 2-0-4-0-2
Toss England, who chose to bat
Series England won the 4-match series 2-1
Test debuts JE Root (England); RA Jadeja (India)
Player of the match JM Anderson (England)
Player of the series AN Cook (England)
Umpires HDPK Dharmasena (Sri Lanka) and RJ Tucker (Australia)
TV umpire S Ravi
Match referee JJ Crowe (New Zealand)
Reserve umpire CK Nandan