Nagpur: India`s batting woes continued to haunt them with the top-order batsmen succumbing tamely yet again as England snapped up four quick wickets to gain firm control of the the crucial fourth and final cricket Test here on Friday.
After posting a decent score of 330 in the first innings, the visitors exploited the slow and uneven bounce of the track to leave India gasping at a precarious 87 for four at close on an eventful second day which saw nine wickets fall.
Paceman James Anderson (3/24) did the bulk of the damage while Graeme Swann chipped in with a wicket as the out-of-form Indian batsmen put up another pathetic display with none of them willing to show the application and temperament to hang in there.
Virat Kohli (11) and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (8) were at the crease when stumps were drawn for the day, with the hosts still trailing by 243 runs.
Earlier, resuming at the overnight score of 199 for five, England did well to stretch their first innings total to 330 with debutant Joe Root (73), Matt Prior (57) and Swann (56) being the notable contributors.
Leg-spinner Piyush Chawla was the pick of the Indian bowlers with a career-best haul of 4/69 while paceman Ishant Sharma (3/49) and R Ashwin (1/66) were the other wicket-takers.
The failure of India`s famed batsmen again let the team down badly as Virender Sehwag (0), Gautam Gambhir (37), Cheteswar Pujara (26) and Sachin Tendulkar (2) could not stay for long. Tendulkar was bowled by Anderson who has now dismissed him nine days, the highest by any bowler.
With three full days left in the match, England have put themselves on course for their first series win on Indian soil in 28 years. India, on the other hand, will have to bat out of their skins to save the ignominy of their third successive humiliating defeat.
England struck in the very first over when Anderson broke through the tentative defense of Sehwag with an in-swinger before the hosts adjourned for tea at a nervous 32 for 1.
The opener, who made a two-ball duck, was completely beaten for pace and bowled, his middle stump ripped out of the ground as his lack of footwork let him down.
Gambhir, looking in good touch but for his poor judgment of a run, and Pujara looked well in control of the proceedings when they added 58 runs in 132 balls before the sudden slump when India lost both these batsmen and Tendulkar for just 12 runs and in 9 overs.
Pujara could be termed unlucky to have been declared out by umpire Rod Tucker as the ball seemed to have missed the glove, hit his forearm and bounced off his pad for Ian Bell to take a superb, diving one-handed catch at forward short leg.
The right-handed Saurashtra batsman looked quite composed despite Anderson trying to hustle him with his bumpers in his 89-minute stay during which he also drove the fast bowler to the straight field and hooked him for two fours.
But Swann’s entry into the attack after 20 overs accounted for his wicket.
Tendulkar, whose career is on the line after a string of poor scores, appeared ill at ease and was beaten twice by the sudden turn extracted by his nemesis in the series -- left arm spinner Monty Panesar -- but it was his other career nemesis – Anderson -- who got his wicket for a record 9th time.
Anderson, brought back into the attack after the drinks break, made two balls go away and then brought one back to bowl Tendulkar.
Tendulkar was beaten by the pace and inward movement and inside edged the ball that also kept a bit low which crashed into his middle and leg stump to leave the batsman flabbergasted and thoroughly distraught.
Gambhir, who had batted resolutely for 137 minutes and 93 balls, attempted an ill-advised drive away from the body to offer a catch to wicket keeper Prior.
Kohli and Dhoni managed to see off the day without further setbacks.
Earlier, leg spinner Chawla hastened the end of the England first innings for 330 after lunch by grabbing the visitors’ last three wickets in only 25 balls in the fourth and final Test here today.
Chawla, who finished with his best figures of 4 for 69 in his three-Test-old career, snapped up the wickets of Joe Root (73), to end the eighth-wicket stand between the debutant and Graeme Swann, the latter batsman too for 56 and James Anderson for 4 in a superb post-lunch spell of 4.5-0-17-3.
The 23-year-old Aligarh-born Chawla thus bettered his earlier best figures of 2 for 66 versus South Africa at Kanpur in 2008, his previous appearance in a Test.
Chawla’s excellent spell, after England resumed at the lunchtime score of 277 for 7, helped India wrap up the visitors’ first innings within the first hour of play after lunch.
England had resumed at the overnight 199 for 5 in the morning, added 78 runs in 32 overs while losing the wickets of Matt Prior for 57 -- bowled by Ashwin for his only wicket of the innings -- and Bresnan who was bowled for a duck by Ishant Sharma.
Sharma, who bowled with a lot of fire on the low and slow track sporting cracks, finished with fine figures of 3 for 49 in his second match of the series while Ravindra Jadeja (2 for 58 in 37 overs) and Ashwin (1 for 66) were the other successful bowlers.
India’s leading wicket taker in the series, left arm spinner Pragyan Ojha, ended wicket-less after conceding 71 runs in 35 overs.
Chawla, who had dismissed Ian Bell yesterday, accepted a return catch from Root after the batsman had a sudden rush of blood - after having plodded for nearly six hours in his 229-ball essay in which he hit just 4 fours.
It ended the stubborn 8th wicket partnership between Root and Swann, who faced 91 balls and struck six fours and two sixes, after the duo added an invaluable 60 runs after joining hands at 242 for 7 at the fall of Bresnan before lunch.
Two overs later, the leg spinner then trapped the dangerous-looking Swann leg before for 56 with a quicker ball that went straight and hit him on the pads as he attempted a reverse sweep.