India continued to make batting look like an amateur sailor navigating a ship in high seas without a compass or technology, with only skipper MS Dhoni actually making any kind of decent contact with the willow to at least ensure the away team would not fold for a score below hundred as England yet again had a field day with the ball.
India have been on such a gift-giving mode in this Test series that they have even started giving Santa Clause a complex, and this time they decided to spread the wickets around, giving away three each to Chris Jordan and Chris Woakes, after already making Moeen Ali look like a world beater in the last couple of Tests.
The first innings score of the fifth Test at the Oval would have been considerably lower than the 148 all out that they eventually finished on, had it not been for a brilliant 82 (140b, 15x4, 1x6) from Dhoni, who, with his unique style and technique, played a wonderfully intelligent innings.
The England openers – Alastair Cook (24 n.o., 49b, 2x4) and Sam Robson (33 n.o., 65b, 5x4) -- made sure they did not take a page from their opening counterparts' book, seeing off the final 19 overs of the day to finish the day on 62 for no loss, trailing by 86 runs to finish a perfect day.
The wicket procession began in just the fourth ball of the innings, with Gautam Gambhir, facing his first delivery, deciding to pull his bat away at a wide delivery from James Anderson too little too late and an edge finding its way to Jos Buttler. India's opening woes show no signs of eking out a path to run-scoring glory, be that with the Gambhir or Shikhar Dhawan, who made way for his fellow southpaw in the fourth Test.
So, it was yet another match in which Cheteshwar Pujara had to come in with that red cherry shining like a red Christmas star in the night, and a few overs later, the right-hander (4, 19b) found himself making that now all-too familiar walk back to the pavilion, with Stuart Broad – broken nose and all – forcing the ball between bat and pad to disturb the timber.
With the away side on 10 for two after just six overs, that eight ball came took its residence in front of India again. The team's outlook looked only more dull and grey, kind of like the conditions in London on Friday, in the 14th over when Virat I-have-forgotten-where-my-off-stump-is Kohli (6, 18b, 1x4) decided to shoulder arms to an in-dipper from Jordan (14-7-32-3), with umpire Kumar Dharmasena, after a little thought raising that dreaded index finger.
With Vijay making getting beaten just outside off-stump look like an art, and Ajinkya Rahane, one of the few batsmen who has actually looked like a batsman on this tour, coming in, India still harboured hopes of a revival. Those hopes were quickly dashed, though, with Rahane (0, 8b) driving one straight back to Jordan.
Vijay followed under three overs later, finally finding that outside edge, off the bowling of Woakes (14-7-30-3), enjoying himself in these swinging and seaming conditions, with Joe Root, wearing a helmet at gully taking a smart catch low down.
Dhoni was the only batsman who looked capable of batting on this pitch, and the skipper ensured no more damage was done before Lunch with Stuart Binny, edgy and jumpy, just about hanging around at the other end.
Such was England's dominance in the first session that India, in their 43 for five in 25 overs, managed just two boundaries – one from Kohli and the other from the captain.
With five lower order wickets to take, England came in raring to go in the second session, and it did not take them too long to send Binny (5, 30b), picked ahead of Ravindra Jadeja, packing as the all-rounder became the latest victim to the outside-edge-behind-the wicket dismissal group – Anderson (17-4-51-2) grabbing his second wicket of the innings.
The swing king was in his elements really and the very next delivery to R Ashwin said it all, with the delivery, right after a peach of an outswinger, tailing in alarmingly to cut the batsman in half. Ashwin (13, 17b, 1x4) might have just about survived that delivery, but it did not take England too long to send India's No.8 and the top ICC Test all-rounder, packing, as India fell to 68 for seven.
It was just a matter of time now, with the only question being if India could inch themselves into three-figures as Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Varun Aaron, after a little resistance, fell to leave the visitors at 90 for nine.
The question was answered by Dhoni and his flaying blade, a couple of deliveries after No. 11 Ishant Sharma, making his comeback from injury, was dropped in the slips, with the skipper, knowing fully well that he needed to score as many runs as quickly as possible, hitting a boundary off Jordan to bring up India's hundred.
Soon after, Dhoni would reach his half-century as well, his fourth of the series, with a flick down leg side as the final wicket duo for India put on the highest partnership of the innings by some distance, while also taking the side to Tea, to add just that wee bit of frustration into the England ranks.
Dhoni and Ishant added a few more runs in the final session, eventually adding 58 runs in 16.2 overs, before finally folding two runs short of 150 as the skipper his a Broad (15.1-4-27-2) delivery straight down the throat of Woakes at fine leg.