Sinking is not a word used flippantly in this southern town from where the Titanic had set sail and gone to the bottom of the Atlantic, but Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team will be having that feeling again after their dream of a grand comeback in the England Test series were crushed.
The World No 1 Test team caved in under pressure, chasing a tough fourth innings target on a dry and powdery pitch, failing to handle the off-spin threat of Moeen Ali.
It was déjà vu for India, as the bowler was recalled at a venue where he took eight wickets to hand the visitors a defeat in 2014. He dismissed India’s big hopes, in-form Kohli (58) and Ajinkya Rahane (51), ending their 101-run stand that promised to take the visitors to a great overseas victory.
India came into the Test with high hopes of levelling the series. They had defied predictions of a total rout by rallying from the loss of the first two Tests to win the third at Trent Bridge by 203 runs.
Victory would have kept India on course to emulate Don Bradman’s 1936-37 Ashes side — the only team to come from 0-2 to win a series 3-2. But India paid the price for throwing away the advantage.
In the first innings, the lower order batsmen just had to bat with Cheteshwar Pujara (132 no), but Hardik Pandya and R Ashwin tried to attack Ali without getting set as India managed to take a paltry 27-run lead. While Ali finished with five wickets, R Ashwin bowled poorly on Saturday, taking just one wicket in his 37.1 overs.
Having nursed a groin injury coming into the Test, he could not bowl freely and tried too many variations, which allowed England to set a challenging target in the end. India seemed to miss a second spinner, with left-arm Ravindra Jadeja failing to be a decent bat.
Indian openers Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul, struggling to tackle pace and seam, failed again. When Kohli was dismissed, India needed 122 runs with five wickets in hand, but the new batsmen could not rotate strike, which made Rahane play defensive and eventually led to his dismissal.
India had targeted three overseas series this year to prove their credentials. They lost the South Africa series 1-2, after losing the first two. This 1-3 reverse follows India’s losses in 2011 (0-4) and 2014 (1-3), leaving Australia at the year-end as the next hope