Southampton: India were staring at a crushing defeat after yet another miserable batting display gave England a complete stranglehold in the third cricket Test here on Wednesday.
Chasing an improbable target of 445, India were tottering at 112 for four at stumps with Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma batting on 18 and 6 respectively. India still require 333 on the final day but more realistically have little chance of preventing England from equalizing the series with only six wickets in hand. With Murali Vijay (12), Shikhar Dhawan (37), Cheteshwar Pujara (2) and Virat Kohli (28) back in the confines of the dressing room , the remaining batsmen need to bat out of their skin in order to save the match.
After being all-out for 330 in their first innings, India conceded a huge first innings lead of 269 runs but Alastair Cook decided against enforcing the follow-on in order to give his tired bowlers some recovery time. England scored at a quick clip to score 205 for four in 40.4 overs before declaring with a lead of 444 runs. Joe Root smashed his way to a 41-ball-56 (9x4) while skipper Cook having regained some form helped himself to an unbeaten 70 off 114 balls with seven boundaries.
With 22-yard strip producing some movement off it, the Indian batsmen did face some testing time with both Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad asking questions in the `Corridor of uncertainty`. Shikhar Dhawan (37) played and missed on a number of occasions as he had no clue about the outgoing delivery from Jimmy Anderson while Murali Vijay didn`t look in his usual composed self that he has been till now in the series.
Vijay (12) was run-out as he failed to beat a Stuart Broad throw. Cheteshwar Pujara (2)`s dry run continued as Chris Jordan showed his alertness at first slip latching onto a catch off part-time off-spinner Moeen Ali`s (2/33) bowling. Having lost two wickets for 29, the Delhi boys Kohli and Dhawan batted sensibly to add 51 runs for the third wicket before disaster struck again.
The most disappointing was Dhawan`s dismissal having done all the hardwork against pacers threw his wicket away as Joe Root bowled a classical off-break that kissed his edge for Jordan to grab his second catch in the slips. Ali took his wickets tally to 11 when he bowled a straighter one which took Virat Kohli`s outside edge which Jos Buttler fumbled before completing the catch.
Earlier, India were all-out for 330 with an addition of only seven runs to their overnight score of 323 for eight with skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (50) failing to add anything to his overnight score. James Anderson (5/53) took his 16th five-wicket haul in Test cricket as Cook didn`t enforce follow-on and decided to give his bowlers a break.
Cook and his opening partner Sam Robson (13) looked steady and not a team in pursuit of a specific target to present the opposition. Bhuvneshwar Kumar took advantage of this as he had Robson caught at first slip by Dhawan in the 7th over of the innings. First-innings` centurion Gary Ballance (38) arrived at the crease and he played with a little more urgency than his skipper. He built a good stand with Cook but was unlucky to be given out caught at short leg by umpire Marais Erasmus off Jadeja`s bowling.
After lunch, Cook and Ian Bell (23) started off in the pursuit of some quick runs. And they were successful in their bid because the Indian team simply looked like they were awaiting the declaration. It allowed the batsmen to plunder runs with consummate ease, as Bell launched an offensive. But he could not go on, bowled by Jadeja around his legs in the 27th over, just after the 100-run mark came up an over earlier. It was Root then who provided the real impetus to the innings, as he stroked his way to a quick-fire half-century.
He smacked 50 off just 38 balls, with 8 fours, and his 50-run partnership with Cook came in only 49 balls. It didn?t appear as if England would declare before the break, but then Root?s wicket changed that. Indian bowlers looked like playing the waiting game, knowing full well that they will have to atleast bat four sessions to save this match from here onwards.
When England started their second innings, Ballance and Cook then gained some momentum, first bringing up the 50-run mark in the 14th over and then four overs later, their own 50-run stand. They put on 58 runs for the second wicket, a perfect platform for someone like Jos Buttler to come and strike the ball later on. Earlier, Anderson took his first five-wicket haul since July 2013. It came after a gap of 26 innings as he wrapped up the Indian innings within the first half hour of play, grabbing two wickets for a run in the space of six balls.
Dhoni was his team`s lone hope of salvaging anything in this first innings but he was unable to add on to his tally from the last night. He faced only 10 balls before Anderson (5-53) bounced him out, the top-edge sailing to wicket-keeper Jos Buttler. Anderson duly wrapped up things when he bounced out Shami as well, the ball taking the glove on its way to the keeper. The medium-pacer, celebrating his birthday today, led his team off the ground.
Stuart Broad (3-66) and Moeen Ali (2-62) were the other wicket-takers in this Indian innings, while Chris Woakes (0-60) and Chris Jordan (0-59) went wicket-less.