England's Complete Team Display Humiliates Feeble India at Old Trafford

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England's Complete Team Display Humiliates Feeble India at Old Trafford
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England have produced what can arguably be said to be their second near-perfect Test in succession to beat India by an innings and 54 runs at Old Trafford in Manchester. 

The victory puts England up, 2-1, in the five Test match series with one match still to play, starting next Friday at The Kia Oval in London. 

England took nine wickets in a dramatic evening session on the third day even without their star bowler from the first innings, Stuart Broad, after he took a nasty blow to the face when batting earlier in the day. 

The victory has transformed the landscape of the series that just over two weeks ago looked radically different with Alastair Cook's captaincy regime on the brink and India celebrating their first overseas Test win in three years.

Difficult questions will now be asked of India who managed to lose this Test in essentially seven sessions after most of the play on Day 2 was lost to rain. Indeed, England's victory will need to be assessed with consideration for India's dramatic shortcomings, for they were certainly as bad as England were good. 

Not for the first time in the series, India's batsmen were spun out by Moeen Ali, who can now certainly lay claim to being more than merely a part-time spinner. Alastair Cook stated at the post-match press conference that he has never seen a cricketer improve so quickly. 

Gareth Copley/Getty Images

But Ali was not alone in leading England's victory charge. Earlier in the day, Joe Root, who is having a magnificent summer at No. 5, and Jos Buttler, who must be finding Test cricket easy in his two matches so far, both scored fifties to haul England from what was a potentially difficult situation into a position of immense strength with a lead of over 200. 

When India came to finally bat again, England, without Broad, bowled slightly wider than they did with the new ball in the first innings, and India appeared relatively settled at 53-1.

A dramatic collapse then ensued that saw England lose, 8-4, for the second time in the Test. Wickets then fell at regular intervals as India slid toward an embarrassing defeat. 

James Anderson, fighting an illness, for the second time in the Test bowled better than his figures suggested. Although Chris Woakes and Chris Jordan will be slightly disappointed with their lengths in the second innings, they still contributed excellently in the absence of Broad. 

Ali was certainly the star of the show, however, extracting turn and bounce from a pitch only two-and-a-half days old. He's now taken 18 wickets in this series, and when you consider his batting was thought to be his strong suit, he is a cricketer of frightening potential. 

Like at the Ageas Bowl, this was a victory in which almost everything went right for England. Cook's captaincy is now certainly safe, despite not actually proving many of his critics wrong with his captaincy itself—although the faith he has placed in Ali can't be underestimated.

Quite suddenly, Sam Robson's position as opener is the only place in the side that remains uncertain or filled by a player whose credentials are not particularly strong. 

Very quickly England have started playing very well and now possess a talented, youthful side, high on confidence and bearing immense potential. 

For India, things are radically different. Since the euphoria of Lord's, they have certainly missed Ishant Sharma's match-changing ability, but it has been the batting that has let them down badly. The form of star men Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli is emblematic of India's woes. But it is not only them. Murali Vijay's good form has disappeared, while Gautam Gambhir also struggled on his return to the side. 

Considering the brutal nature of the past two Test matches, it does seem almost impossible for India to bounce back in this series, but then again, you could have said that about England after Lord's.

Indeed, you can look back on some of the little moments at the Ageas Bowl—Ravi Jadeja's drop of Cook being one particularly pertinent moment—and imagine how different things could have been had those moments gone differently. 

A more existential concern emanating from this defeat and the situation of the series is that these results are not good for the Test format. World cricket—and Test cricket—needs a strong India. For the sake of a good spectacle—and then for Test cricket—let's hope they can use their extra days off to their advantage and regroup for the final Test at The Oval. If they don't, heads may have to roll. 

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