It was the series everyone had been talking about. An Indian team defending their precious number one ranking against a supremely confident England side that had bullied Australia into submission in their own backyard.
Most thought that there was not even a hair’s breadth between the sides and predicted a close series with Sachin Tendulkar destined to score his hundredth international hundred – perhaps at Lord’s in the first match of the series on the occasion of the 2000th Test match.
As it transpired, India were on the receiving end of an absolute battering with the margin of the four defeat whitewash reflecting England’s total dominance: 196 runs at Lords, 319 runs at Trent Bridge, an innings and 242 at Edgbaston and then finally an innings and 8 runs at The Oval.
Tendulkar failed to reach his milestone as well although he did come tantalisingly close on the final day of the series when he was incorrectly given out just nine runs short. Instead it was Rahul Dravid (and to a lesser extent the whole-hearted Praveen Kumar) who manned the burning bridge admirably with three hundreds and nearly a quarter of India’s runs for the series.
England were magnificent: Prior, Cook (with 294 at Edgbaston) and especially Bell and Pietersen (who both passed 500 runs for the series) shone with the bat and Anderson and Bresnan proved deadly with the ball. But England’s man of the series had to be Stuart Broad, whose place was under threat from the outset after a poor series against Sri Lanka.
A strong all-round performance at Lord’s, which saw seven wickets and a vital second innings 74 not out proved the mere hors d’oeuvre to a Botham-esque performance at Trent Bridge. First Broad resurrected England’s 1st innings with a counterattacking 64, then with India moving into what looked a decisive lead he bagged a memorable hat-trick as part of an innings return of 6/46 to precipitate a collapse and swing the pendulum back to India.
With all the cogs in the machine running smoothly, the astute captaincy of Strauss, the visionary coaching of Flower and an immense team spirit, England could be set for a long reign at number one.
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