Southampton: A listless India crashed to a humiliating 266-run defeat against England in the third cricket Test after an abject batting surrender allowed the hosts to level the five-match series 1-1 here on Thursday.
Needing to bat out the whole day with six wickets in hand in order to save the match, Indian batting crumbled in the first session itself getting bundled out for a meagre 178 in 66.4 overs in a completely lopsided contest at the Ageas Bowl. It was one of the biggest defeats for India in terms of runs on English soil but not their worst, having lost a Test match by a mammoth 319 runs in Nottingham during the last tour in 2011.
For England, the victory meant an end to a winless streak of 10 Test matches starting from the Ashes Down Under. To add insult to the injury, it was part-time off-spinner Moeen Ali, who bamboozled the lower-oder batsmen with his career-best haul of 6 for 67 in 20.4 overs.
Pacer Jimmy Anderson provided the first breakthrough in the morning when he had Rohit Sharma (6) nibbling at an away-going delivery to be caught by wicketkeeper Jos Buttler. Mahendra Singh Dhoni (6) couldn`t replicate the resilience of the first innings as he was again a victim of an outswinger, edging to the keeper.
While Ajinkya Rahane waged a lone battle at the other end, he could do little as he saw wickets falling like nine pins at the other end. Moeen, then got into the action as he got the ball to turn and jump from the rough as well as bowling the classical off-breaks. He cleaned up Ravindra Jadeja (15) with a delivery that pitched on the rough and came in to hit the off-stump.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar got out to a bat-pad catch with a delivery that spun in after pitching. His maiden `five-for` was completed when a typical off-break cleaned up Mohammed Shami. Rahane duly got his second half-century of the match hitting a brilliant square drive off Chris Woakes with No 11 Pankaj Singh for company.
Pankaj was finally cleaned up by Moeen for his sixth scalp as he played inside the line. The two teams will now travel to Manchester for the fourth cricket Test to be played from August 7 at the Old Trafford.
India lost their last six wickets for just 66 runs in 24.4 overs on the final day. Moeen took four wickets for 17 runs in the space of 22 balls, having dismissed Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli on the fourth day. Rahane's unbeaten 52 off 121 balls with seven boundaries was the only saving grace in an otherwise disastrous performance.
James Anderson, who will be attending the ICC hearing on his alleged altercation with Ravindra Jadeja, was again adjudged man-of-the-match for his brilliant match figures of seven for 77 on a track, which wasn't exactly conducive for seam and swing bowling.
Stuart Broad (0-22), Chris Jordan (0-22), Chris Woakes (0-23) might have gone wicketless but they certainly kept the pressure on the Indian batsmen. The only time on the final day when India had a partnership going their way was when Rahane and Jadeja conjured up a 32-run stand for the seventh wicket.
It took India past the 150-run mark in the 59th over albeit the score was of little consolation at this juncture.
That is when Moeen came on to bowl and sliced apart the lower-order. A piece of statistic that might just worry Dhoni is the performance of his lead spinner Ravindra Jadeja, who only has eight wickets to his credit from three Test matches with a strike rate of 106.8 (nearly 18 overs) while Moeen, who certainly isn't frontline spinner, is now second to Anderson with 15 wickets to his credit.
India's batting mainstay in the past couple of years, Kohli, has been one of the biggest disappointments in this ongoing tour so far with only 101 runs from six completed innings with a highest score of 39. Test specialist Cheteshwar Pujara has done marginally better with 190 runs from six knocks with a second innings half-century to show for his efforts.
Time is also running out for left-handed opener Shikhar Dhawan, whose technique against swinging delivery has been found wanting with only 122 runs in his kitty, a below-par average of shade over 20. With Ishant Sharma unavailable for the fourth Test also, skipper Dhoni will certainly have a lot of thinking to do in terms of getting his first XI right.