England thank cautious India
India’s lack of adventure and a nerveless display with the bat from England ensured the final Test in Mohali finished in an inevitable draw.
The initial signs on the fifth day were that the hosts had targeted an early close to their second innings as Yuvraj Singh and Gautam Gambhir launched a ferocious assault on the England attack.
But, despite boasting an insurmountable lead almost from the moment play got under way, India – safe in the knowledge that defeat here was an impossibility – opted to press on in needlessly cautious fashion beyond lunch.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni was eventually persuaded to declare when India reached 252 for seven, as soon as Gambhir – as Yuvraj had moments earlier – fell narrowly short of a century.
England, their hopes of squaring the series gone – a target of 403 made sure of that – were therefore charged with batting out the remaining 43 overs of a day severely truncated by fog.
On a pitch offering little more than slow turn and the occasional delivery that kept low, they achieved their objective with precious few alarms, progressing serenely to 64 for the loss of a solitary wicket by the close.
Andrew Strauss finished unbeaten on 21 and Ian Bell 24 - a welcome spell at the crease following a poor run of form - but they were never able to prevent India wrapping up a 1-0 series win.
Alastair Cook was the only casualty for England on a day when the only question mark for much of the time was when rather than if the sides would shake hands. The answer was shortly after 4pm, with an hour and 15 overs unused.
India’s decision to continue batting was motivated solely by their desire to see the two left-handers reach three figures, but Yuvraj fell 14 short and Gambhir perished for 97 either side of Dhoni’s dismissal, effectively ending the interest of the home supporters who braved another chilly day at the PCA Stadium.
The now familiar morning mist prevented play getting under way on time for the third successive day, but India used the two-and-a-half-hour delay as reason to press the accelerator in their bid for quick runs.
Yuvraj and Gambhir - unbeaten on 39 and 44 respectively overnight - cut loose during an hour-long session which reaped 82 runs at more than six an over.
Neither batsman appeared in any particular rush until Gambhir followed Yuvraj to his fifty, made off 174 and 57 balls respectively.
Gambhir’s charge down the track to slap James Anderson over cover sparked a sudden change in tempo, but that stroke appeared positively sedate compared to Yuvraj’s brutal hitting.
Having raced along at almost a run a ball yesterday to effectively bat England out of the game, the all-rounder revelled in the freedom the situation afforded him today.
Anderson was hoisted off his legs into the stand at deep square-leg before Stuart Broad was dispatched for successive sixes.
The first, a remarkable pull off the front foot which flew comfortably over the rope at long-on, was followed by a savage cover drive as Yuvraj made room - and left Broad, who was hit for six sixes in an over by the same player during last year’s ICC World Twenty20, grateful there were only two balls remaining in the over. He avoided further ignominy.
India’s approach contrasted sharply with their go-slow tactics yesterday, which, strangely, resurfaced after lunch as three wickets tumbled in the space of six overs.
Bell’s superb pick-up and direct hit from short fine-leg left Yuvraj short of his ground after an aborted single, Dhoni offered the simplest of return chances to Monty Panesar, and Gambhir - a second century in the match within reach - was well held by a diving Bell at gully off Graeme Swann.
England, with little to play for but the preservation of pride, suffered few alarms until Cook, fencing at Ishant Sharma from around the wicket, was smartly taken at second slip by VVS Laxman for 10.
Strauss and Bell ensured it was India’s only success, exhibiting a good deal of composure in an unenviable situation by surviving five overs before tea, and a further 15 after the interval, the last of which was bowled by wicketkeeper Dhoni.