Moeen spins England to series victory against India


India fell 60 runs short of their target, despite an excellent century partnership from Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane, as England’s bowlers prevailed to go 3-1 up and consequently secure the series win.

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At one point it had looked ominous for Joe Root’s men when Kohli and Rahane hit their stride in the afternoon session, but an inspired performance from Moeen Ali (4/71) and excellent support from England’s bowling unit prevented any upset at the Ageas Bowl.

The day began about as dreadfully as England could have hoped, when Stuart Broad nicked off first ball of the day for a golden duck, lending his bat tentatively to a full Mohammed Shami ball outside of his off-stump.

Shami took Broad’s wicket with the first ball of the day

Sam Curran (47) and James Anderson (1*) added just 11 runs before India wrapped up the innings with yet another run-out to go with Root’s, this time via an excellent, accurate throw from Ishant Sharma to dismiss England’s young left-hander who was hurried into making the single while trying to protect Anderson from the strike.

Kohli’s men then began their pursuit of 245, in the knowing that a win would take the series to the fifth and final Test, and with the knowledge that failure to reach their target would result in series defeat for the MRF Tyres No.1 ranked Test team.

India’s run-chase was dented immediately, and rather unfortunately, when Stuart Broad bowled KL Rahul with a good-length delivery that ended up a grass-cutter, whizzing by the Indian batsman’s ankles and knocking over the stumps via a bottom edge. As predicted, this dry pitch was already providing much uncertainty, and England knew that Moeen’s threat would surely increase as the innings wore on.

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India were rocked once more when Cheteshwar Pujara was forced to depart, Anderson picking up his first scalp of the match with a mean in-swinger that pinned him lbw on his back leg – he reviewed, but to no avail. 17/2 became 22/3 soon after, when Shikhar Dhawan tried to stave off a good-lengthed, hooping Anderson delivery, but his edged prod of a shot flew into the safe hands of Ben Stokes, who caught well diving to his left in the slips.

With their backs well and truly against the wall, it was up to Kohli and Rahane to rebuild for the tourists. Rahane survived a huge scare at 45/3 when Curran had him given lbw, only to be overturned following a successful Indian review. Kohli also saw off two big lbw calls from Moeen Ali, the first drawing great ire from the England side after third umpire Joel Wilson judged there to have been an edge from the snickometer, with possible sound from the pad at the same moment. The second came after the lunch break, with Moeen again rapping the Indian skipper on the pads, but the Hawk-Eye replay proved it struck him outside off-stump. England had lost both their reviews.

After a period of Indian panic and intense probing from Moeen, Rahane and Kohli began to negate the problematic circumstances and conditions with great patience and tenacity. The turbulent rough was an obstacle, but one that they conquered repeatedly, batting with real guile and frustrating the English bowlers who had dominated proceedings throughout the morning session. Kohli’s 115-ball half-century was met with rapturous applause from the Indian fans, and the tourists had quietly slipped into a position of relative command.

Rahane and Kohli battled admirably for their stand of 101

Shortly after they reached their 100-run stand however, it came crashing down. Captain Kohli was forced to depart for 58 after gloving one on to his pad and into the hands of Alistair Cook at short leg. Hardik Pandya followed for a duck soon after, edging one off Stokes (2/34) to Root who snaffled at third slip.

Rishabh Pant strode out to the middle in a contrasting mind-frame to his first innings knock, in which he batted fruitlessly for 29 deliveries and fell having not troubled the scorers. He blasted his way to 18, prompting a few nervous chin-scratching moments in the England ranks, before hauling out to Cook in the deep, Moeen notching his second scalp, and heaping any hope of an Indian win on to the shoulders of the stoic Rahane.

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England finally went for the jugular when Rahane (51), after 158 balls, was undone by Moeen, who was reaping the reward for consistently hitting the foot-holes and capitalising on favourable spin conditions – something Ashwin had failed to do on the third day. Playing off the back-foot to a big turner, Rahane was plumb in front, and all the hosts then had to do was mop up the tail.

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Stokes got the better of Sharma for another Indian duck, and Moeen dismissed Shami (8) to record his fourth wicket, the tourists’ most impressive bowler from this fourth Test skying one to Anderson to leave his side 163/9 and on the cusp of series defeat.

Curran wrapped up what was an enthralling encounter for the neutral, and a devastating one for India, when he got his only wicket, Ashwin just missing one on leg-stump and being given lbw.

Moeen was the star man for England, totalling a haul of nine wickets in the match after wreaking havoc amongst the India batsmen. His recall to the side will be seen as a fine move of the England selectors’.

England will be delighted to have beaten the world’s top-ranked Test side in a five-match series, despite recurring issues with their top-order and frequent slip-fielding errors, while India will look to salvage some pride with a win in the fifth Test at the Oval before they commence their 2018 Asia Cup campaign.