The bizarre run-out of England captain Alastair Cook and the tireless approach of spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha afforded India late hope on day three of the third Test at Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Friday.
The bizarre run-out of England captain Alastair Cook and the tireless approach of spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha afforded India late hope on day three of the third Test in Kolkata.
Resuming on 216 for one, the visitors' ambition of batting the opposition entirely out of the match was marginally stifled, and it will take a sterling effort from the lower-order to ensure England don't bat again in conditions slowly deteriorating at Eden Gardens.
For their 509 for six, and lead of 193, the English again owe their skipper the bulk of their gratitude. Cook, now the nation's most prolific centurion, was once more at the fore - and it took a peculiar dismissal to rob his career of a third double-century, and first on the sub-continent.
Eager to evade fielder Virat Kohli's return throw, from midwicket to the non-striker's end, the batsman failed to ground his bat behind the crease before dodging the ball. Kohli's accuracy ensured a direct-hit, with umpires Kumar Dharmasena and Rod Tucker following the letter of the law to send the prolific left-hander packing in disappointment.
Cook's vigil was another epic from a man who has batted for over 26 hours in the series' three matches so far. Friday saw him afforded another lifeline, though, when seamer Ishant Sharma grassed a reasonably straightforward return catch when the batsman was on 156. Slip fielder Cheteshwar Pujara, meanwhile, was still regretting the chance he spilled on Thursday - to leave Cook debt free on 17.
Upstaging the 165-run stand he shared with fellow opener Nick Compton, Cook largely took a back seat during a 173-run alliance alongside the right-handed Jonathan Trott. Trott rectified an otherwise dour string of statistics for the right-hander this year with a very solid, albeit characteristically fidgety 87, 10 boundaries included.
The pair fell in relatively quick succession, affording India the gap they later opened even wider. With Trott caught behind in the wake of some prodigious purchase off the pitch from Ojha and Cook snaffled for 190, new father Ian Bell added to the mini slump by feathering a tame edge to wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni off Ishant.
Cook's closest competitor in terms of England Test centuries, Kevin Pietersen ensured some repair work before perishing lbw on the sweep to spinner Ashwin. Pietersen looked good for greater proportions, particularly after opening the third session with three consecutive fours, but failed to go any further than 54.
All-rounder Samit Patel held his own at the coveted number six berth en route to a brisk 33, ultimately holing out in the slip cordon off Ojha. The left-arm spinner was easily the pick of Friday's bowlers, snaring figures of three for 140 - and sharing a whopping 102 of the innings' 163 overs.
The closing hour of play brought an unbeaten 56-run partnership between wicketkeeper-batsman Matt Prior (40 not out) and aspirant all-rounder Graeme Swann. Aided by India's choice not to take the third new ball, the pair will eye a lead of 300 and beyond come Saturday.
India, however, will know full well a fourth-innings chase of anything more than 150 will prove tricky in Kolkata, where a vital lead ahead of next week's series decider is ripe for the picking.