The margin of defeat will surely be massive but we do not yet know the exact numbers. A bizarre day’s cricket finished with England on 311 for nine, 210 short of victory. At one point when Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes were in harness it seemed likely that there would be some meaningful cricket left on the final day. Then, as England lost four wickets for 10 runs, the motorway beckoned. Yet somehow Adil Rashid, alongside Stuart Broad and then Jimmy Anderson, survived for an hour so that Trent Bridge must open its doors again on Wednesday.
However, we know the Indian victory will be emphatic – the forecast is fine – and the teams will reunite at Southampton next week with the series alive at 2-1 and the England team thoroughly chastened at a ground where they usually prevail. This has been a retrograde performance by England and an inspired one by India, who have outplayed England in all three facets of the game: their bowlers were quicker and more hostile, the batsmen more adhesive and the same applied to the hands of their slip catchers despite a few blemishes.
Perversely, the crowd made the best of it all, cheering Anderson and Rashid merrily as they survived the final overs of the day. In reality there were only two England players entitled to be cheerful, Buttler and Stokes, who shared a 169-run partnership in the afternoon, an oasis of calm amid much frenetic batting.
For Buttler, especially, this was surely a landmark day in a unique career. Arriving at the crease with England languishing at 62 for four, he hit his maiden Test century, an innings of rare poise and purpose, and alongside Stokes, he suggested that English batsmanship is not entirely dormant. In the process Buttler further justified his surprising recall in May. Somehow in August the cricketing fates have now cast him as England’s vice-captain, wicketkeeper and a cast-iron choice in the team.
There were plenty of silky strokes from the Buttler bat. He hit 21 boundaries in his century, a record he now shares with three other Englishmen, Alan Knott, Mark Butcher and Andrew Flintoff. But like Stokes, who displayed even greater self-denial, Buttler was prepared to grind at the start of his innings in a manner that seems alien to most English batsmen. Gradually he expanded his range of shots, all of which were of red-ball orthodoxy.
For three hours batting was a breeze, especially when the sun came out and the ball aged. In the meantime Stokes, doggedly oblivious to runless periods – in fact, he almost seemed to relish them – dug in with great determination. But on either side of that partnership there was mayhem.
The openers were gone within 20 minutes. It was all too simple for Ishant Sharma. He has swung the ball consistently away from the left-handers from around the wicket throughout the series and here he found the edge of dangling bats as easily as a fisherman reeling in his catch above a shoal of mackerel. Keaton Jennings nibbled to the keeper, Alastair Cook to KL Rahul, who has given a fine exhibition of slip fielding in this match.
Ollie Pope hit his first ball down the ground for four in fine style as he continued his brief exploration of Test cricket. He looks the part while he is there; the problem is that he has not been there for very long in his three Test innings. He is the greenhorn so he deserves more latitude and he has been asked to learn how to bat at four in the harsh environs of Test cricket.
If the batting lineup is rejigged in Southampton because of the likely absence of Jonny Bairstow, Pope may drop in the order. While playing for Surrey in his brief first-class career he has never come to the crease before the 23rd over; for England he has never entered the fray after the 13th over.
Joe Root never settled, which is a worry. Over the last 12 months Root has seldom looked out of form even when he has not been scoring runs but here he was scratching around, his touch and timing oddly elusive. The worry is that Root, an intelligent man, is starting to wonder who the devil is going to score the runs if he fails. Maybe the performances of Buttler and Stokes can ease those concerns.
Here Root poked at a wide delivery from Jasprit Bumrah, the stiff-armed, indefatigable paceman and Rahul routinely took the catch at second slip. Now Pope displayed his naivety. The next ball, bowled by Mohammed Shami at the start of the following over, was very wide and full; Pope lunged and edged and Virat Kohli took a stunning catch at third slip. Then Buttler and Stokes calmly restored order for almost four hours.
Finally the excellent Bumrah, armed with the second new ball, intervened explosively. Buttler padded up and was lbw; next ball Bairstow emerged despite his fractured finger and lost his off stump first ball. Then Chris Woakes fended at a vicious bouncer and Stokes was furious to edge to second slip. Soon Rashid edged to Kohli off Bumrah with the score 245 for eight but it transpired that the bowler had overstepped by a millimetre. Somehow England added another 66 runs thereafter, a source of delight to those who stayed on in the evening sunshine and a few Nottingham hoteliers.