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England crash to humiliating defeat at Lord's

The Report by David Hopps
July 21, 2014 « Gerrard retires from England duty | Rashid's burst takes Yorkshire top »

India 295 and 342 beat England 319 and 223 by 95 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

James Anderson was the last wicket to fall © Getty Images
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IIshant Sharma, bowling short and aggressively with the old ball, produced one of the most memorable spells in the history of Indian fast bowling to destroy England's resistance in the second Test at Lord's.

As India completed a 95-run victory 50 minutes before tea on the final day, it ended a run of more than three years without an overseas Test victory and left England befuddled and bereft as they contemplated a winless streak of 10 Tests and the continued failures of their senior players to contribute to a rapidly-changing landscape.

England's defeat, and the muddle-headed cricket they regularly played en route, will increase criticism of Alastair Cook's captaincy despite repeated protestations from England's hierarchy that he remained the man to lead them during a period of rapid change. As their innings ended to a farcical run-out, Cook and his coach Peter Moores, their dejection only half-hidden behind reflective sunglasses, were deep in conversation on the balcony.

But India, who won at Lord's for only the second time in 82 years, will have eyes only for the performance of Sharma, who returned career-best figures of 7 for 74 and invited comparisons with the brilliant spell at Perth in 2008 when he roughed up no lesser player of fast bowling than Ricky Ponting and encouraged India's hopes that they had a great fast bowler to reckon with.

Sharma's career has never quite turned out like that, but one could imagine that the intervening years had not existed as he pounded life from the Lord's pitch with the old ball, reviving India's spirits with the last ball before lunch by removing Moeen Ali, and adding Matt Prior, Ben Stokes and Joe Root to hook shots in a burst of 3 for 2 in eight balls as England descended into a self-destructive display of machismo.

Stuart Broad, caught down the leg side, was his final victim, in a spell of 5 for 41 in 9 overs, broken by lunch. His use of the short ball was encouraged by his captain, MS Dhoni, and began as a last throw of the dice 10 minutes before lunch, a response to a draining morning in which India had failed to disturb the equanimity of Root and Moeen. It ended with Indian celebrations as he made great use of occasional indifferent bounce.

His rebellious side was captured by the occasional appearance of non-cricket coloured purple pants as he tore into bowl, East Perth replaced six years on by St John's Wood. England's innings ended in the 89th over, but the new ball was never even taken.

That these are two middle-ranking teams with problems is undeniable, but their inadequacies as much as their promise had contributed to an engrossing spectacle on a Lord's pitch of uplifting quality. India can celebrate in London before heading to the Ageas Bowl for a third Test beginning on Sunday; England face recriminations, with the Test future of their wicketkeeper, Matt Prior, also bound to be under scrutiny.

India went unrewarded until the final day of a morning session in which Root and Moeen played with skill and fortitude. Then Sharma summoned a wicked bouncer to have Moeen caught at short leg. One wicket, but potentially a huge psychological shift. There was no skill and fortitude after that, not from England anyway.

Without that wicket, England could have taken enormous satisfaction from a morning which had chipped away 68 of the 214 runs they still needed. India's dressing room morale would have been shaken. But the ball reared aggressively enough for Moeen to tilt his head away in self-protection and a simple catch flew off the glove to Cheteshwar Pujara at short leg. India, it turned out, had found a way through.

Root seemed to have ensured that England went to lunch as buoyant as possible. Sharma had been brought back to hunt a wicket that India were desperately in need of but 14 came off the over. With England 170 for 4, an unlikely victory 149 runs away, it was India's lowest point.

Root struck three boundaries in an over, passing his half-century on the way. He moved through the offside arc - straight, covers, backward point - but it was his single against the next ball as Dhoni resorted to a cover sweeper that again identified him as a thinking cricketer.

England had taken 30 overs to compile those 68 runs. From 72 for 4, Root and Moeen had assembled a fifth-wicket stand of 101 in 44 overs, Root relishing the tension, Moeen composed alongside him, vulnerable occasionally against Ravindra Jadeja's left-arm spin as a couple of nudges dropped safely away from the leg trap.

There had only been one successful chase at Lord's beyond 319 and only 27 successful chases above 300 in Test history. But sides bat deeper these days and, although a wonderful Lord's pitch was now offering substantial turn, India only had one (fairly) specialist spinner in Jadeja. The choice of Stuart Binny's medium pace above the spin of R Ashwin was hard to justify.

Such debates were silenced by Sharma. With the new ball only four overs away as he began his innings after lunch, Prior might have been expected to try to hang around with Root, so protecting a young talent like Stokes from the new ball. Instead, with the new ball theoretically only two balls away, Prior hooked Sharma to deep midwicket with three men laid out for the trap.

Stokes, out in Sharma's next over, collected a pair, failing to pull him up the slope and skying to Pujara at midwicket. At least Root's swivel pull later in the over had an element of control, but he picked out deep square all the same. Root had imagined he might plot a route to victory. Instead Root 66 turned out to be a road to oblivion.

India's only other win at Lord's came in 1986. David Gower, a captain under pressure, had just followed up a home Ashes victory with a heavy defeat the following winter. He was replaced by Mike Gatting as captain after India won at Lord's. It was easy to advance a theory, perhaps fanciful given England's protestations of loyalty, that Cook might go the same way. But at his post-match press conference he insisted that he had no intention of resigning.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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