Moeen’s all-round con­tri­bu­tion seals se­ries win for Eng­land

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - CRICKET - DAVID CLOUGH

MOEEN ALI fi­nally broke In­dia’s re­sis­tance as Eng­land sealed the Spec­savers se­ries with a 60-run win af­ter a ti­tanic strug­gle in Southamp­ton.

The world’s No 1 team pushed Eng­land into the penul­ti­mate evening of the fourth Test, thanks to a cen­tury fourth-wicket stand be­tween Vi­rat Kohli (58) and Ajinkya Ra­hane (51).

But Moeen (4-71) took his match haul to nine wick­ets, and In­dia lost four wick­ets for just 13 runs soon af­ter tea to give Eng­land an unas­sail­able 3-1 lead with one match to play.

In­dia’s tar­get, one they have ex­ceeded just once in their his­tory to win out­side Asia, was 245 af­ter Eng­land were bowled out for 271 in their sec­ond in­nings.

Kohli, es­pe­cially, and Ra­hane made Joe Root sweat, but Moeen dis­missed both, on an in­creas­ingly help­ful pitch, in a to­tal of 184.

An event­ful morn­ing al­ways ap­peared in the off­ing and, in glo­ri­ously cloud­less con­di­tions, so it proved as first Eng­land lost their last two wick­ets for 11 runs.

Stuart Broad edged the first ball be­hind to go for a golden duck and put Mo­hammed Shami (4-57) on a hat-trick for the sec­ond time in the in­nings.

Sam Cur­ran pre­vented that at the start of the next over, only to fall four short of his sec­ond 50 of the match, run out de­spite a dive in for a chancy sec­ond.

This fluc­tu­at­ing con­test was there­fore per­fectly set, but In­dia were soon un­der­mined by the loss of early wick­ets.

KL Rahul was un­done by low bounce, bowled on the back­foot de­fence by Broad, while James An­der­son – who had been strangely wick­et­less through the first in­nings – soon ended his wait to get in on the ac­tion when bagged two in four balls.

Chetesh­war Pu­jara could muster only five, fol­low­ing his un­beaten cen­tury on Fri­day, caught leg be­fore when push­ing for­ward.

Then in his next over, An­der­son had Shikhar Dhawan edg­ing some swing to be well-caught by Ben Stokes at third slip.

The lunchtime talk­ing point was yet to come, though.

Kohli had just nine to his name when he sur­vived in a mo­ment of con­tro­versy af­ter Eng­land opted for an lbw re­view.

Tech­nol­ogy de­picted Moeen’s off-break hit­ting in line and go­ing on to leg-stump, but third um­pire Joel Wil­son in­ter­preted an Ul­traedge as Kohli’s bat-on-ball saviour – de­spite an ap­par­ently syn­chro­nised im­pact with the front pad.

Ra­hane also had a marginal es- cape on 12, given out lbw to Cur­ran on the field but handed a life­line by DRS which demon­strated a fin­ger-nail pro­tru­sion of the front pad out­side off-stump.

A frus­trated Eng­land could then only muster one wicket in the af­ter­noon ses­sion but, cru­cially, it was the one they craved above all oth­ers.

The ses­sion was an ex­po­si­tion of crick­et­ing skills as bat coun­tered ball, de­spite the haz­ards of spin, oc­ca­sional vari­able bounce and foot­marks for Moeen and Adil Rashid, and re­verse-swing for An­der­son.

Kohli dealt with the lot, reach­ing his 114-ball 50 with just his third bound­ary, un­til Moeen got one in the per­fect place to spin, bounce and take the glove for a catch at short-leg.

Hardik Pandya lasted just three balls into the evening, be- fore fenc­ing a catch low to sec­ond slip off Stokes and, sud­denly it seemed, ev­ery­thing de­pended on Ra­hane.

Rishabh Pant tested Eng­land’s nerve briefly with a counter-at­tack­ing cameo of two bound­aries and a lofted six from just 12 balls.

But he holed out to deep cover off Moeen – and once Ra­hane went to the off-spin­ner too, lbw deep in his crease af­ter a 147-ball 50 which con­tained a soli­tary bound­ary, Eng­land were at last on the home straight.

It was not Moeen, on his re­turn af­ter be­ing dropped in Christchurch in March, who struck the fi­nal blow, how­ever, but his fel­low come­back kid Cur­ran.

The Sur­rey bowler cap­tured the 14th lbw ver­dict of the match as Ravi Ash­win was last out to hand the hosts a mem­o­rable se­ries vic­tory.

Played vi­tal role for Eng­land on his Test re­turn against In­dia with both bat and ball.

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