Excellent England retain control
England built on Alastair Cook’s record-breaking 190 by establishing a healthy first-innings advantage on day three of the third Test with India at Kolkata.
Cook, who became England’s most prolific five-day centurion yesterday, was denied a double-hundred by a bizarre run-out, but saw his side reach stumps 193 ahead on 509 for six.
Significantly, the tourists could also take encouragement from a deteriorating surface that underlined the importance of runs on the board.
A pitch that had appeared remarkably placid on days one and two changed in character today and offered appreciable turn together with more frequent variable bounce. Greater assistance to the bowlers can surely be anticipated as the game draws towards a conclusion.
Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen contributed 87 and 54 to supplement another epic innings from Cook and England’s dominance was reasserted by an unbroken fifty partnership between Matt Prior and Graeme Swann, who finished unbeaten on 40 and 21 respectively.
Although healthy contributions throughout the order will delight team director Andy Flower, it was Cook who undoubtedly played the integral role in lifting England beyond 500 for the first time in 2012.
Dropped on 17 yesterday by Cheteshwar Pujara, the left-handed opener was given a second life this afternoon on 156 when Ishant Sharma spilled a simple return chance.
The error was indicative of India’s general fielding performance, which bordered on laughable at times, yet Cook deserves immense credit for yet another masterclass in concentration and application that took his run-tally for the series to a staggering 547.
Without ever finding the fluency he showed yesterday, England’s captain remained largely comfortable against a tiring attack and offered another reminder of his development with a second straight six off Ravichandran Ashwin.
He appeared certain to follow in the footsteps of Graeme Fowler and Mike Gatting by passing 200 in India, only to then depart in the most unusual manner. After Pietersen turned down a single to square-leg, Cook wandered back to the non-striker’s end but lifted his bat in a bid to avoid being struck by Virat Kohli’s throw. A direct hit ensured he would immediately regret his decision.
By that stage, England were already 43 ahead, with Trott having demonstrated a return to form during a largely attritional partnership of 173 that ended when the number three was caught behind off Pragyan Ojha.
Trott has struggled for runs on this tour, but followed up a watchful start with some pleasing strokeplay either side of the wicket. It took a fine delivery, which turned and bounced from outside off stump, to deny him an eighth Test hundred.
The in-form Pietersen thumped Ojha for three successive fours immediately after tea, having cleared the ropes beforehand, but India struck twice to prevent things from spiralling out of control.
Ian Bell was caught behind aiming a loose stroke at Ishant, while Pietersen fell lbw on the sweep to Ashwin.
A breezy 33 from Samit Patel ended when Virender Sehwag parried an edge off Ojha into the air at slip before pouching the ball at the second time of asking.
India may have been confident of making further inroads before the close, but Prior and Swann counter-attacked impressively to leave the hosts with a mountain to climb.
Live Text Commentary
10:33am - STUMPS - Eng 509/6; Prior 40, Swann 21 - The fifty partnership and England’s 500 arrives courtesy of a sweet cut from Swann off the returning Ishant. Prior then cashes in on another loose Ojha delivery by slicing the left-arm spinner for another four. India threatened to hit back either side of tea today, but the tourists have reasserted their dominance prior to stumps and are now well placed to push for victory.
10:23am - Prior piles on the agony for India with further boundaries off Ashwin and Ojha, the first via a sweep and the second through an authoritative thrash through the covers.
10:15am - An Ishant delivery pretty much rolls along the ground outside off stump. I’m quite happy to see more of that with England’s lead approaching 200.
10:05am - There’s a reason why most England fans adore Matt Prior. He is playing a valuable hand here, with a swept four off Ashwin taking him to 25.
10:01am - England extend their lead beyond 150 as Swann gets a controlled edge down to the third-man fence off Ojha. Prior then unfurls a powerful switch-hit before Swann clears mid-off. The boundaries are flowing!
9:53am – There is a lot of responsibility on Prior’s shoulders now. He responds by pulling Ishant for six! Eighty-three runs have come in 16 overs since tea.
9:46am - WICKET! Patel c Sehwag b Ojha 33; 453/6 - Oh dear, Patel’s promising innings has come to an end. He gets a thick edge when looking to cut Ojha and is taken at the second attempt by Virender Sehwag at slip. The initial chance was parried into the air.
9:45am - A Bodyline-esque field is set as Zaheer opts to test Patel with some chin music, which appears a strange move on this slow Kolkata track. It doesn’t pose a problem to England’s number six, who duly picks up fours on either side of the wicket off Ojha, the latter following another awful piece of fielding at deep point. Gambhir was the culprit on this occasion.
9:37am - Prior picks up three when slicing a loose drive through point. A more convincing stroke, high over the infield at midwicket, brings a first boundary for the wicketkeeper-batsman.
9:30am - Patel eases Zaheer through the covers for four before drinks are taken with England 117 ahead.
9:20am - Having been dominant for so long, it is important England push on to 500 or more now. Patel continues to look in fine fettle and has Matt Prior, vice-captain for this match in the absence of Stuart Broad, alongside him.
9:13am – WICKET! Pietersen lbw Ashwin 54; Eng 420/5 - Pietersen finds the boundary again with another powerful slog-sweep, but is then trapped lbw by Ashwin when looking to repeat the trick. A huge breakthrough for India, who are doing their best to stay in the game.
9:10am - FIFTY! Pietersen (83b 8x4 1x6) - After punching Ishant through the covers with a wonderful back-foot drive, Pietersen moves to 50 with a flick into the leg side off Zaheer Khan. India will be in deep trouble if he is still there at stumps.
8:59am - Patel goes aerial over midwicket to collect four more off Ravichandran Ashwin. He has started very confidently and England’s lead is approaching three figures.
8:49am - Samit Patel gets off the mark with a classy cut for four off Ojha. This is a good opportunity for the Nottinghamshire all-rounder to display his talent.
8:42am - WICKET! Bell c Dhoni b Ishant 5; Eng 395/4 - That’s not Ian Bell’s finest hour. He aims a wild bottom-handed thrash through the covers and succeeds only in getting an inside-edge through to the wicketkeeper. England have to be careful not to throw away all their hard work here.
8:37am - Kevin Pietersen means business! The first ball after tea, from Pragyan Ojha, is cut to the point fence. A powerful cover-drive makes it two boundaries from as many balls and the next delivery is then hammered down the ground for four. There is a big lbw appeal at the end of the over, but I think Pietersen got just outside the line.
8:12am - TEA - Eng 381/3; Pietersen 29, Bell 3 - This is looking rather ominous for India. Pietersen marches down the track to Ojha and helps himself to an effortless straight six, before sweeping Ashwin for four. He could have some fun this evening!
7:57am - Textbook Pietersen! He whips Ishant to the square-leg rope in dismissive fashion to pick up his third four.
7:49am - After all that we now have Ian Bell alongside Pietersen, who has shown a willingness to take the attack to India. Tea is around 20 minutes away and England lead by 45.
7:42am - To clarify, Cook had plenty of time to make his ground, but took evasive action as the throw came in. As he had not grounded his bat, the umpires had no choice but to send him on his way. Kohli deserves credit for a fine throw.
7:37am – WICKET! Cook run out 190; Eng 359/3 - What a way for Cook’s sensational innings to come to an end. This really is bizarre. Pietersen sends his skipper back after playing the ball to square-leg. There appears to be no danger as Cook approaches the crease, but he then opts to lift his bat and swerve out of the way as Virat Kohli’s throw comes in, presumably to avoid being struck by the ball. A direct hit ensures the left-hander is denied the chance to become England’s third double-centurion in India.
7:24am - India will know just how important it is to get Pietersen early here. Otherwise, there could be carnage. A flatter delivery from Ojha almost cleans up the new batsman, but the ball races past the stumps and Dhoni for four byes. England’s 350 is brought up in the next over when Pietersen puts away a rancid full toss (dare I call it a pie?) from Yuvraj.
7:18am – Yuvraj serves up a juicy half-volley and Pietersen drives powerfully through the off-side to claim his first four.
7:07am - Pietersen’s arrival prompts Dhoni to introduce Yuvraj Singh, the part-time left-arm spinner famously labelled a ‘pie-chucker’ by England’s number four. Yuvi starts well, drawing a couple of false strokes from his great rival in a maiden.
7:01am - WICKET! Trott c Dhoni b Ojha 87; 338/2 - Ah, that’s a shame. There will be no hundred for Trott, who is well pouched by Mahendra Singh Dhoni after Ojha had found the outside edge with a flighted delivery. India finally have a second wicket, but here comes Kevin Pietersen...
6:56am – The paddle-sweep is proving effective for Cook and Trott, who are both nearing personal milestones. A third Test double-hundred is within the grasp of England’s captain, while Trott needs 13 more to complete an eighth five-day ton.
6:46am - Ojha starts to appeal for leg before against Trott, but immediately realises that the ball was sliding down. Cook then thumps Ashwin back over his head for six. We saw that shot yesterday and this was no less impressive. England are definitely looking to kick on now!
6:36am - England move into the lead courtesy of a delightful reverse-sweep from Trott. Both batsmen are starting to show a little more positive intent and you would imagine that will only increase from here on in.
6:30am - India’s twirlers are now finding appreciable spin and batting is nowhere near as straightforward as it was yesterday. An outside edge from Trott races to the third-man fence before Ishant Sharma misfields for at least the third time today.
6:22am – Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott will be in no mood to give their wickets away, but it is hard not to get excited by the prospect of Kevin Pietersen lifting the tempo at some point today. India have been pretty shoddy in the field and could well be taken apart if KP clicks into top gear. For the time being, steady accumulation is the order of the day, although Cook shows aggression when slicing Ashwin past slip for four.
6:18am – We’re back under way in Kolkata, with Pragyan Ojha and Ravichandran Ashwin seeking to exploit increasing turn.
5:31am - LUNCH - Eng 296/1 - Cook 167, Trott 66 - Trott is almost bowled by Ashwin on the sweep, before Cook plays and misses to successive deliveries. India have finished the session well, but I imagine England are happy to see a bit of life in the pitch given their increasingly dominant position. At lunch, the tourists trail by just 20.
5:20am - More turn for Ashwin, but an appeal for a catch at leg slip proves ludicrously optimistic as Trott’s bat was nowhere near the ball.
5:14am - Cook has now batted for more than 24 hours in the series - a truly astonishing effort. He is beaten when looking to drive Ashwin, but can be excused the occasional false stroke. There has definitely been a little more help for the spinners today, which is good news for Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann.
4:59am - Having struggled for runs prior to this innings, Trott now appears in fine touch. Another cover-driven four takes him to 60.
4:51am - DROPPED CHANCE - Goodness me! Cook finally offers up a second chance and India fail to take it! After punching Ishant down the ground for four, the left-hander is deceived by one that sticks in the wicket and offers up a simple return catch, which the bowler somehow spills. To make matters worse for India, Zaheer has been given an official warning for running on the pitch.
4:44am - Ishant Sharma finds some extra lift and strikes the bat handle of Cook, who is then beaten by a Zaheer delivery that kept low. England won’t mind seeing uneven bounce at this stage, however. They now trail by just 47.
4:30am - FIFTY! Trott (131b 7x4 0x6) & CENTURY PARTNERSHIP - England are finding runs easier to come by with this firmer ball. Trott picks up four more through the covers before passing 50 courtesy of consecutive leg-side boundaries off Zaheer. He and Cook have now put on 101.
4:21am - 150!! Cook (275b 21x4 1x6) - The runs just keep on coming for the man known as ‘Chef’. A firm push to the midwicket boundary takes Cook beyond 150 and he will be determined to get a few more yet!
4:16am - Lovely stuff from Trott - the Warwickshire batsman leans into a cover-drive against Ashwin to collect four. That prompts the acceptance of the new ball and Zaheer’s return.
4:12am - India appear less than energetic in the field. It could be a long old day for the hosts, with the pitch continuing to play well. Trott has been extremely cautious against Ojha, who has conceded five runs in as many overs this morning.
4:03am - Trott twice sweeps Ashwin for two as England double their run-tally for the day by taking five from the 82nd over. The first boundary of the day arrives in Ashwin’s next set of six as Cook drives a half-volley through the covers. India’s off-spinner replies by turning one past the outside edge.
3:55am – Pragyan Ojha takes over from Zaheer and the watchful Cook is able to add to his overnight score. There’s certainly no need for the skipper to rush this morning as England seek to build a mammoth lead. Back-to-back maidens from Ashwin and Ojha follow as India opt against taking the new nut straight away.
3:47am - The new ball will be available shortly, which may give India something of a lift. Another lbw appeal from Ashwin, this time against a sweeping Cook, proves unsuccessful. The left-hander, like Trott before him, was struck outside off stump.
3:41am - Zaheer Khan is given first crack from the High Court End. The left-arm seamer found some reverse-swing yesterday and had Alastair Cook dropped on 17 by Cheteshwar Pujara. Ashwin subsequently strikes Jonathan Trott on the pad, but the impact is outside the line and umpire Kumar Dharmasena remains unmoved.
3:33am - Mahendra Singh Dhoni delivers a long speech in the Indian huddle and then throws the ball to Ravichandran Ashwin, who concedes a solitary leg bye in the first over of the day.
3:20am - Jonathan Trott, no stranger to a long innings himself, will be Cook's partner when the players return to the field in a few minutes. India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni must surely have demanded an improvement from his players; at times yesterday the hosts appeared powerless as England seized control.
3:10am - England will simply aim to bat, bat and bat some more today, having established a terrific platform chiefly through the deeds of their skipper. There has been little to encourage bowlers thus far in this match, but the tourists will hope to see the pitch break up as the match wears on. For now, it's all about getting as many runs on the board as possible.
3am - A hundred runs behind with nine first-innings wickets still intact, England could today take a huge step towards victory - and a series lead - in the third Test with India. Alastair Cook will resume on 136, having reached a string of landmarks on a memorable second day at Eden Gardens.