England kept in check
India enjoyed the better of an attritional day’s cricket in the crucial fourth and final Test as England were left to rue some profligacy in Nagpur.
The hosts were under plenty of pressure heading into the encounter, knowing only victory would stave off a first five-day series loss on home soil since 2004.
Yet they responded admirably to those trying circumstances, squeezing England - scenting a first Test triumph in India for almost 28 years - impressively on a surface that took the ‘slow and low’ sub-continental stereotype to extremes.
Aided by a touring side that were at times architects of their own downfall, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men claimed five wickets in 97 overs on the opening day for the concession of just 199 runs.
That did, however, represent something of a recovery for England as debutant Joe Root - a surprise selection - showed outstanding poise in striking 31 not out, putting on an unbroken 60 with Matt Prior, who had 34.
Kevin Pietersen produced England’s most substantial effort, showing the kind of grit that contrasts with his usual style - and perhaps indicated just how tricky the surface was - in striking a 188-delivery 73 after Cook had finally called correctly at the toss having lost his previous five in Tests.
Yet Pietersen's dismissal was indicative of a frustrating day for Cook’s side; having battled impressively, he chipped debutant Ravindra Jadeja straight to midwicket.
That departure came on the back of similarly needless ones for Jonathan Trott, who had looked untroubled - and at times authoritative - in compiling a restorative 44 following two early wickets, and Ian Bell.
The former, perhaps drained of concentration following the drinks break, left a straight Jadeja delivery that crashed into off stump and the latter hit the otherwise ineffective Piyush Chawla straight to short extra-cover.
England were quickly placed on the back foot this morning as both openers departed cheaply.
After Ishant Sharma had Nick Compton - surprised by a rare delivery that bounced above chest height - caught behind, the in-form Cook was ousted, albeit in unfortunate circumstances.
The fast bowler - pushing the ball across the left-hander throughout his spell - rapped Cook on the pad, appealed vociferously and celebrated wildly as umpire Kumar Dharmasena surprisingly raised the finger.
The opener’s frustrated demeanour was telling - and understandable - given the ball was seemingly missing off stump by some distance and struck pad outside the line.
Despite that early annoyance, the captain could glean optimism by the end from the efforts of Prior and Root, the latter’s maturity in difficult conditions evoking memories of Cook’s own international bow - which also came as a 21-year-old - at this venue six years ago.
The Yorkshireman is some way off matching Cook’s 164 runs over two innings, yet the ease with which he rotated strike, drove and defended was certainly promising.
11:03am – STUMPS – Eng 199/5; Root 31, Prior 34- And that's that for what has been something of a throwback day with the run-rate just above two an over. Good work from Prior and Root, who saw out the last few overs, in an unbroken 60-run stand. I cannot help but feel tomorrow morning will be crucial. Join me then!
10:46am - Quality from Prior, who finds the boundary with an excellent back cut. Playing the ball late is crucial on this kind of surface; he and Root have done just that. Elsewhere, Dhoni is helping himself to a nice little neck massage. Bliss. To be fair, the over-rate is hardly a problem - we have already seen 94 today!
10:40am - This partnership has now moved past 50, and what an important one it has been. Prior and Root have both played with excellent patience and will now be aiming to get through to stumps.
10:26am - After England continue to mix effortless strike rotation with the odd boundary, Mahendra Singh Dhoni opts to take the fresh cherry. Ojha makes first use of it, but proves similarly ineffective.
10:10am - Still not much to report from Nagpur; India have not yet taken the new ball and Prior has just collected a single from the first over after drinks.
9:55am - I cannot stress how impressed I have been with Root, who entered the fray in difficult circumstances and has yet to play a false shot. All quiet in the middle, with he and Prior opting to accumulate.
9:36am - A lovely drive from Prior brings four; he really looks good when hitting through the off side. More of that please, Matt!
9:22am - Root continues on his merry way and looks unruffled so far. Matt Prior, meanwhile, is often the man for a crisis. England certainly need these two to step up here.
9:09am - WICKET! Pietersen c Ojha b Jadeja 73; Eng 139/5 - Well, England are not helping themselves here. Pietersen is the man to go this time, caught at midwicket by Pragyan Ojha off Jadeja, who must feel like he has won the lottery. Pietersen had played so well and that was not his best shot. A partnership is needed now!
9:05am - Cracking start from Kevin Pietersen, who drives the first ball after tea to the cover boundary - only to then survive two vociferous lbw appeals. Good decisions from umpire Rod Tucker to turn those down.
9:01am - The players are out in the middle again and Ravindra Jadeja will bowl the opening over of the evening session.
8:41am – TEA – Eng 133/4; Pietersen 68, Root 10- Cracking way for Root to get off the mark as he drives Chawla confidently through cover for three, after which comes a first international boundary in the same fashion from Ojha. Time for a break.
8:26am - WICKET! Bell c Kohli b Chawla; Eng 119/4 - Pietersen clearly fancies having the strike against the returning Piyush Chawla, illustrated by him darting back for a second run that prompts a run-out appeal - though he was back in comfortably. Bell does not fancy it so much as he departs, caught at short extra-cover by Virat Kohli. As I said earlier, that’s a key position on this type of surface. Big test for debutant Joe Root now!
8:15am - Almost a chance at short midwicket - remember what I said earlier? - as Pietersen looks to whip through leg again. The ball hit Cheteshwar Pujara’s fingertips, but I cannot tell whether it carried anyway. England have been watchful against Ishant, who has looked the only real threat.
8:06am - Probably the shot of the day from Pietersen as he drives Jadeja high over cover for another four. Ian Bell, who showed signs of form in the second innings at Eden Gardens, is circumspect early on.
7:48am - WICKET! Trott b Jadeja 44; Eng 102/3 - Ah, what a shame. Trott falls via a real error of judgement. Ravindra Jadeja is brought back and given a huge boost as England's number three leaves a straight one that crashes into off stump.
7:40am - This is all very easy now for England, especially given the early losses of Nick Compton and in-form Alastair Cook. Trott adds to his score with a well-timed swept four, a shot he has played impressively throughout the day. And now it's drinks.
7:25am - FIFTY! Pietersen (108b 8x4 0x6) - Comfortable indeed! Pietersen reaches a deserved half-century from 108 deliveries. An extremely responsible innings from England's number four.
7:22am - Another cracking shot from Pietersen, who powerfully strikes Ishant through cover for another boundary. Trott then does likewise off Ashwin. These two are looking comfortable.
7:06am - Trott finds his first boundary in some time with a flowing cover drive off Ashwin. The number three then enjoys a slight moment of fortune as an aerial shot through midwicket is tipped but not caught. Men close in that area and cover will be crucial on a pitch like this.
7am - Has there ever been a better illustration of just how slow this surface is? Ishant digs a short ball into Trott, who looks to sway, realises the ball has not bounced as much and opens the face to take a single to third man. Wow. I am pretty sure he called home and had a cup of tea in between all that too!
6:48am - Lovely shot from Kevin Pietersen, who delivers a trademark whip through midwicket off Ishant Sharma. That is the kind of timing we've not really seen on this sluggish strip.
6:42am - Ravichandran Ashwin will bowl the first over of the afternoon session. Jonathan Trott is on strike and we're almost ready to go again.
6:01am – LUNCH – Eng 61/2; Trott 28, Pietersen 28 - Ishant comes back on for another burst before the interval, but England see his two overs off - though less convincingly than they have versus spin. India will wish they had picked another seamer! Anyway, that's that for the opening act. Good response from England so far on a slow surface.
5:46am - I think it’s fair to say Pietersen has settled now. Jadeja drops short and is cut powerfully through point for another boundary before Trott drives in the same area and takes three. Good response from these two so far.
5:35am - Consider the shackles broken! After showing intent but hitting fielders, Pietersen takes them out of the equation by twice effortlessly whipping Piyush Chawla over mid-on for four. Exceptional shots.
5:26am - It's very quiet in Nagpur, where Trott and Pietersen are adopting a responsibly patient approach. I cannot help but feel the latter will break the shackles sooner rather than later.
5:15am - Jadeja and Ojha combine in creating a couple of close calls before Trott produces the perfect response, trotting - see what I did there? - down the pitch and driving the former down the ground for four.
5am - I thought this pitch looked a belter earlier, but not so much now. There is minimal pace and timing does not look easy - though Kevin Pietersen makes a slight mockery of that statement by crashing debutant Ravindra Jadeja down the ground for four before Trott sweeps his third boundary. India then appeal for a run-out against Pietersen, but England’s number four is comfortably in. Time for a drink.
4:47am - WICKET! Cook lbw Ishant; Eng 16/2 - Well, having made a good decision in Ishant's last over, umpire Dharmasena has had a shocker. Cook is hit outside the line of off stump, with the ball not threatening the timber and given out. India are delighted, understandably. Cook, not so much.
4:42am - Extremely close call as Ishant finds a little bit of movement back into Trott and hits the pad. Umpire Kumar Dharmasena dismisses a loud appeal, with replays showing the batsman was hit marginally outside the line of off stump.
4:28am - I said it was a low catch from Dhoni, and it was. But I am surprised it carried at all; there is hardly any bounce in this surface, with several deliveries dropping short of the wicketkeeper. In other news, we have seen the first boundary! Lovely shot from Jonathan Trott, who drives Ishant down the ground for four.
4:17am - WICKET! Compton c Dhoni b Ishant; Eng 3/1 - Oh, and it is not so quiet now. Lovely delivery from Ishant, who finds a little away movement, locates the edge and watches as Mahendra Singh Dhoni takes a good low catch.
4:16am - Uneventful start in Nagpur - which is not the worst thing to hear if you're an England fan - as Cook and Nick Compton defend stoutly. They both realise the importance of setting a platform.
4:03am - Skipper Alastair Cook sees out the opening over from Ishant Sharma with ease. No lateral movement in evidence or any real bounce. England will be looking to bat themselves to a guaranteed series victory here. Left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha shares the new ball.
3:58am - Cook and Compton are in the middle alongside India's fielders. We're almost ready for the action.
3:50am - Here are the teams in full:
England - Alastair Cook, Nick Compton, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Joe Root, Matt Prior, Tim Bresnan, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Monty Panesar.
India - Gambhir Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ravichandran Ashwin, Piyush Chawla, Ishant Sharma, Pragyan Ojha.
3:46am - Both sides have made two changes. Root does, indeed, come in for his debut, replacing Samit Patel. Tim Bresnan plays in place of Steven Finn, who has a back injury. India, meanwhile, have replaced Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan with Ravindra Jadeja and Piyush Chawla.
3:35am - ENGLAND WIN TOSS & BAT - Hallelujah! Cook breaks his duck and England will make first use of a good-looking surface. It's remarkable thinking now that they are 2-1 up in this series without having batted first!
3:23am - The chatter is, by the way, that Joe Root has received his first Test cap out in the middle. The Yorkshire batsman is just 21 and would make his England debut having not featured in any senior international format.
3:15am - The first thing on Alastair Cook’s agenda is to try and win the toss, which takes place in around 15 minutes. Cook has been Nasser Hussain-esque so far in his tenure, calling incorrectly five times out of five - the first two of which came when he was filling in for Andrew Strauss against Bangladesh.
3am - Hello and welcome to ecb.co.uk’s live coverage of the fourth and final Test between India and England. The tourists headed to Nagpur knowing a draw would ensure they emerge victorious in the country for the first time since 1985, while India are aiming to avoid their first series defeat on home soil since 2004.