The first Investec Test between England and India ended in a comical rather than dramatic draw as the tourists batted out the final day on a lifeless Trent Bridge track.
What had long looked likely to end with honours even was trundling towards its inevitable conclusion when under-pressure England skipper Alastair Cook chose to up the entertainment value by bowling two overs that included loose impressions of England players of years gone by.
It drew much mirth and – remarkably – one of the least expected wickets in Test history as Ishant Sharma was given caught behind to a leg-side strangle, but also gave a fitting element of farce to a game that has been contested on a grim and unresponsive surface.
Long before Cook’s crowd-pleasing silliness, his side briefly threatened to produce an unlikely victory push in the first hour.
They took three wickets in that period, Stuart Broad accounting for overnight batsmen Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane in an inspired spell and Liam Plunkett toppling India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni with his first ball of the day.
But, if they were wobbling at 184-6, stands of 65 and 91 for the seventh and eighth wicket steadied India.
Debutant Stuart Binny was involved in both, making a composed 78, while Bhuvneshwar Kumar struck his second half-century of the match from number nine.
Afterwards, Cook declared the wicket the winner after his side’s run without a Test victory extended to nine matches.
A flat pitch had offered little throughout the five days and, although England had a sniff of victory early on the final day, India stood firm with the match finally over when they declared on 391-9.
“We threw everything into today (Sunday) but when they got above 250-260 you felt we weren’t going to win,” he said.
“We had a sniff when they were only 200 ahead but the wicket won.”
That it was England, and not India, who were the ones to be chasing victory was somewhat remarkable, not least after they had been 202-7 while chasing India’s first-innings total of 457.
Joe Root’s 154 and 81 from last James Anderson eventually helped England take a first-innings lead of 39, giving England hope once India were at 184-6 in their second innings.
“We dragged ourselves out of a hole,” Cook said.
“In this game we had a poor session when we lost six wickets. It was an outstanding hundred from Root and with Jimmy to have got 80-something. I didn’t see it coming, but thank goodness he got it.”
“A few people aren’t talking to me,” said Cook of his late-game antics. “It was a extraordinary moment for me to have more Test wickets than (bowling coach) David Saker.”
But while he could enjoy a laugh, Cook and England still have serious concerns over how they can take the wickets needed to win a Test – a move which has led to the call-up of left-arm spinner Simon Kerrigan in the squad for the second Test at Lord’s.
The 25-year-old conceded 53 runs from eight overs against Australia at The Oval last August on his only previous appearance.
He has taken 28 County Championship wickets for Lancashire this summer at an average of 34, with a best of 4-68.
“We’re seeing a lot of dry weather,” Cook explained.
“If we get a pitch with pace and bounce that attack will be hard to bat against, but we haven’t had one of those wickets so we have to have a contingency plan.”
England squad: A Cook (capt), M Ali, J Anderson, G Ballance, I Bell, S Broad, C Jordan, S Kerrigan, L Plunkett, M Prior, S Robson, J Root, B Stokes, C Woakes.