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Openers set out their stall

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James Anderson & Sachin Tendulkar

James Anderson demolishes dangerman Sachin Tendulkar's stumps for one © Getty Images

England's batsmen cleared the first hurdle of their challenge as they attempt to deliver an overdue performance and prevent India sealing their historic series triumph with victory in the final npower Test.

Any hope of preserving an unbeaten home Test series record stretching back to 2001 was all but ended by England's failure to set competitive first-innings totals both at the Brit Oval and during the previous Test at Trent Bridge.

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But after being set an unlikely victory target of 500 with a minimum of 100 overs remaining of the final Test, England at least set the foundations for a final day performance to thwart's India's victory bid as they chase their first series win on English soil since 1986.

Facing a tricky 20 overs before the close of the fourth day, England at least emerged unscathed from their first challenge with openers Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss guiding them to 56 without loss.

The big challenge, though, is ahead of them with a further day to negotiate and produce their first consistent display of the series having failed to score more than 355 in any of their previous innings against the tourists.

They will, however, have found encouragement in Strauss and Cook - who have only got three half-centuries between them in the series - success in surviving to leave India requiring all 10 wickets for victory on the final day.

England had begun the day still trailing by 338 on 326 for nine and although they frustrated India for half an hour, they eventually conceded a 319-run first innings deficit to present India captain Rahul Dravid with a dilemma.

Sourav Ganguly

Sourav Ganguly was the only batsman to look comfortable at the crease © Getty Images

Eager to push for victory but equally conscious of the need to protect their 1-0 lead and secure a series victory, Dravid opted not to become the first opposition to enforce the follow on against England since West Indies in Antigua three years ago.

Instead, India chose to bat on and increase their lead in the hope they could advance quickly enough to declare with enough time to bowl England out in the final innings on a dry, worn surface.

Their plan was undermined, however, by a spirited display from an England attack deprived of left-arm seamer Ryan Sidebottom, who had not recovered from the side strain he suffered during the first innings.

Lancashire seamer James Anderson began the top order collapse by winning a fortuitous lbw decision against Wasim Jaffer which appeared to be bouncing over the stumps by some margin but did not prevent umpire Ian Howell adding to his series of mistakes during this Test by raising his finger.

If that was perhaps fortunate, there was no doubt about England's next two wickets with Chris Tremlett, given the new ball in Sidebottom's absence, inducing Dinesh Karthik into a tentative push outside off-stump which he edged to Paul Collingwood at second slip.

Anderson then followed that with the prized scalp of Sachin Tendulkar in probably his final Test innings in England with a superb delivery which shattered his stumps as the great man pushed forward and left India reeling on 11 for three, although they did have a cushion of a 33-run lead.

Paul Collingwood

Paul Collingwood has Ganguly caught at slip © Getty Images

Stunned by the demise of their top order, captain Rahul Dravid changed tactics and set about trying to block India into a lead comfortable enough for him to declare.

With Sourav Ganguly adopting an aggressive role in making 57 off 68 balls, Dravid dropped anchor and contributed only five to their 65-run stand.

Ganguly perished trying to maintain his aggressive policy by edging Collingwood's medium pace to Strauss at slip and Dravid followed in identical fashion six overs later.

But by the time he was out he had occupied the crease for 140 mind-numbing minutes for his 12, having taken 91 balls to register his first boundary and may have threatened all the slow-scoring records had he continued to a major score.

His next major contribution would be to decide when India should halt their innings to give them enough time to push for a victory which would bring them level with England into second place in the world Test rankings.

He waited long enough to watch a more entertaining 69-run stand between VVS Laxman and Mahendra Singh Dhoni and finally called a halt with India 499 runs ahead with a day and 20 overs to try and force victory.

Hoping to make inroads before the close, India were instead confronted with a stubborn opening partnership between Strauss and Cook, which was only their second of 50 or more in the series.

But with evidence of extravagant turn even from the occasional off-spin of Tendulkar before the close, England knew there was plenty of hard work ahead of them if their Test summer was not going to end with a 2-0 Test series defeat.

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