Calcutta: Back in the Sky Sports studios in Isleworth, west London, Ian Botham rued last evening that he would have to set his alarm for 2 am again. On Sunday, he didn’t have much to complain though.
England needed only 55 minutes on the final day to wrap it up at the Eden and take a 2-1 lead in the series.
This was India’s first successive Test loss at home since February-March 2000, when South Africa won in Mumbai and Bangalore.
Another former England captain Michael Vaughan, who had predicted a 4-0 whitewash after Ahmedabad, stopped short of saying that it was a mistake to bet against Alastair Cook’s men.
“Simply Brilliant from England in Kolkata...” Vaughan tweeted. “The Cricket England have played In the last 2 Test matches is as good as I have seen in all my time watching and playing for England... England are giving India a lesson at how to play in their own backyard...”
The seven-wicket margin may have taken some gloss out of the victory but unless the hosts manage to pull themselves up drastically in Nagpur, England are assured of winning the first series in India since Australia in 2004.
Ravichandran Ashwin delayed the English charge, pushing it into the final day and remaining unbeaten on 91 after 182 minutes. Denied a second Test century, he also struck early with the ball. Cook came down the wicket to the fifth ball, in their chase of 41, and was stumped for only the second time in his first-class career.
Jonathon Trott was then trapped in front before Ashwin returned to force Kevin Pietersen to nick behind the wicket. At eight for three, Ian Bell stemmed the disaster with a run-a-ball 28.
As Bell hit the winning run to square leg, the pumping of clenched fist set off celebrations in the dressing room. The Barmy Army in the C block, too, joined in as the players acknowledged their efforts with a victory lap.
For a considerable period of time in the morning Eden Gardens, for England, had become a home away from home.
“#BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM. Sensational team effort! Cook- WOW! Our bowlers - WOW! Bell looked in brilliant touch there too.. Good signs!” tweeted KP.
For the Indians, there will be a lot of soul searching. Surveying the wreckage of consecutive defeats haven’t been easy on the Sandeep Patil-led selection committee.
Dhoni conceded that the batsmen were lacking in application and need to ignite the fire in their belly if they are to harbour hopes of squaring the series. If Cook and Kevin Pietersen have been rock solid in Mumbai and Calcutta, the Indians have failed to be consistent.
Except for Virender Sehwag briefly and Cheteshwar Pujara, none of the batsmen have shown the temperament to grind at the wicket. Once Pujara failed in the second innings in Mumbai and here, the batting fell to pieces. None seemed keen to put a price on their wicket.
That survival on this wicket wasn’t impossible was shown by Ashwin, who now averages 53.50 in the series. Only Pujara has done better.
Be it batting, bowling or fielding, the hunger and will to succeed was missing.
Dhoni, interestingly, didn’t vouch for a turner in Nagpur. Perhaps the reverses have taught him to be more restraint in his choice.
“From here we really don’t know what’s there in Nagpur. But we have played on wickets in Nagpur that turned and that did not,” said a cautious India captain.
The players though decided to indulge in a game of soccer for nearly two hours to overcome the shock and agony.
It was at this venue that a new chapter in Indian cricket unfolded under Sourav Ganguly’s captaincy. The win against Steve Waugh’s Invincibles is still a part of folklore.
Have they now reached new depths under Dhoni’s leadership at this very venue?