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A reply to Anderson’s antics

Karma they would call it in India; getting your comeuppance they would call it in James Anderson’s part of the world. There was Anderson lying in the dirt, spreadeagled and face down, having failed to beat a return throw from Ravindra Jadeja, as the realisation of a stunning defeat dawned.

India felt very wronged at Trent Bridge by Anderson’s aggression, allegedly both verbal and physical, towards Jadeja and repayment came more swiftly than they could have hoped for, with Jadeja putting the full stop to only their second victory at Lord’s, midway through the final day of a magnificent Test match.

Anderson had called Liam Plunkett for a quick single to cover, only to be sent back as the India spinner rushed around to retrieve the ball, before throwing down the stumps and wheeling away in triumph.

Defeat for England, the margin of it being 95 runs, came in a rush after, believe it or not, a marvellous opening session. Marvellous, that is, had it been one ball shorter.

For until the final ball before lunch, Joe Root and Moeen Ali had played with such common sense and such conviction and purpose, adding 68 largely untroubled runs, that the unexpected was not entirely out of the question. Ten overs after lunch, the game was finished.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni made the crucial switch for the final over before lunch, asking Ishant Sharma to go into what now must be known as “Plunkett mode”, after Sharma and his fellow seam bowlers, as well as India’s spinners, had toiled unsuccessfully throughout the morning.

Three short balls to Root signalled the change, the right-hander was discomforted enough for Dhoni to persevere and so it was that Ali took his eyes off the final ball before lunch, ducking into a short one and punching it to short leg.

The irony was that Ali signalled to himself that he ought to have played an aggressive shot. An hour later, three batsmen were in the pavilion wishing that they had played a little less aggressively.

Lemming-like, Matt Prior, Ben Stokes and Root all succumbed to the hook shot as Sharma continued his short-pitched ploy, with two and sometimes three fielders waiting for the catches that came, one after another, after another.

This was ridiculous batting. First Prior, who had come out bristling, and who continued to play with abandon even when Dhoni posted a third fielder on the hook.

Sharma propelled another short ball into the pitch, but crucially this time from round the wicket so that the angle was against the shot, and Murali Vijay barely had to move to take the catch.

It was a sad way for Prior to go, but the inescapable conclusion has come that Father Time, looking on from above the Lord’s clock, has caught up with him and his body no longer allows him to be the kind of cricketer that he has been for so long for England.

Following Prior’s lead, Stokes added another nought — to complete an ignominious pair — to the horrific run of scores he has made since he posted a half-century in a ODI against Australia in February.

Like Prior, he attempted to pull a ball from well outside off stump, and succeeded only in hoisting a catch to mid-on. His batting looks shot, although, unlike Prior, he is sure to come again.

Then Root, who had played so beautifully in the morning and who had moved to his fifty with five choice boundaries from 122 balls, three of them in one over from Sharma, but who now caught the hooking virus, Stuart Binny the catcher.

Root left the crease gnawing on the bottom of his bat, knowing that he had gift-wrapped another soft wicket on a day when his team could ill afford it.

To be fair to Root, he had shown great skill and conviction before lunch, precisely the kind of qualities England must look for now in their darkest moment.

For India, this was a stunning triumph. It was built on the disciplined foundations of a hundred from Ajinkya Rahane in the first innings, 95 from Vijay in the second, not forgetting the skill and composure of Cheteshwar Pujara in the first, the impishness of Jadeja in the second, and the all-round contribution of Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

Sharma topped it off with a fast-bowling performance of skill and heart either side of lunch on the final day, so finishing with Test best figures of seven for 74. He and his fellow seam bowlers showed England the way.