England closed day four of the third Test in Kolkata on the brink of an historic victory over India, who were 239 for nine at stumps - just 32 runs ahead.
Ravichandran Ashwin's unbeaten 83 took India into an overall lead after they had lost six wickets for 36 runs in the afternoon session trying to get on terms with England, who had hit 523 in their first innings.
England's lead of 207 was the minimum that they would have expected before the day began and India were making good progress through Virender Sehwag (49) and Gautam Gambhir (40) before England carved through their middle order.
Steven Finn took three wickets with James Anderson and Graeme Swann taking two apiece as England looked to be heading for a victory with a day to spare before India finally showed some fight in the final session through Ashwin, Ishant Sharma (10) and Pragyan Ojha (3 not out).
The first session had begun very well for India and everyone expected them to show the same grit throughout the day. England began at their overnight score of 509 for six and the Indian bowlers just needed 4.3 overs to wrap up their innings.
Zaheer Khan (1-94), Pragyan Ojha (4-142) and R Ashwin (3-183) all took a wicket each off their second deliveries of the day, sending back Matt Prior (41), Graeme Swann (21) and James Anderson (9) respectively. The latter went forth to scalp Monty Panesar (0) additionally, as their first innings came to a close at 523 runs.
Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir then gave some reason to cheer as they went to lunch without ceding any wickets, as well as scoring at a very healthy rate. Sehwag was lucky when he edged to slips but Alastair Cook and Swann were confused as to who will go for the catch.
They added 86 runs in 21 overs, both batsmen looking solid and intent on seeing the day through for their team. Truth be told, for a moment it did look so, as India won their first session this Test and in a comprehensive manner.
Disaster struck when Swann bowled Sehwag in the post-lunch session. The ball just turned and went past his inside edge to knock back the off-stump. He scored 49 runs off 57 balls, with seven fours, and after his departure the procession did not stop.
12 runs later, Gambhir called Cheteshwar Pujara (8) for a quick run and after showing some hesitation, he did run but was short as Ian Bell found his mark. Having played his part in another needless run out this Test match, Gambhir himself was very unsettled and soon after cut Finn in haphazard manner, only to edge the ball to the keeper.
He scored 40 runs off 104 balls, with four fours and one six, as India found themselves at 103 for three. Four runs later, Sachin Tendulkar (5) edged Swann to Jonathan Trott at first slip. The ball turned and bounced a tad more to take a meaty outside edge.
103 for four became 122 for five when James Anderson bowled Yuvraj Singh (11) five overs later, the ball keeping low and taking a bottom edge enroute to destroying the stumps.
Three balls later skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni edged Anderson to Cook, out for a duck and India slumped to 122 for six. In less than an hour post lunch, India had lost six wickets for 36 runs.
Virat Kohli (20) and Ashwin put up 33 runs for the seventh wicket, but the writing was already on the wall. Kohli played another loose shot, like he has been doing all series, and edged Finn behind the stumps.
Two overs later, he had Zaheer Khan (0) trapped LBW. Afterwards Ashwin and Ishant Sharma hung around for 18 overs for a 38-run partnership, that did nothing else but delay the inevitable to day five. Ishant did fall in the 73rd over of the innings, having scored 10 runs off 53 balls, with two fours.
Ashwin, in company of Ojha, then started hitting out. The trick paid off as he was able to ward off an innings defeat and made sure England will need to bat again, as India took a minimal 32-run lead at stumps. Ashwin was unbeaten on 83 off 151 balls, with 13 fours, while Ojha was three not out.
Finn was the most successful bowler with three for 37, while Anderson (2-38) and Swann (2-70) chipped in with two wickets each. Panesar took only the one wicket, finishing the day with one for 75.
Select quotes from day four:
Virender Sehwag on India’s collapse: "Our batting just didn’t show enough application. That has been the main difference, as their batsmen have been more patient. We scored 500-plus in Ahmedabad and everything was good. We haven’t done that since.
"In Test cricket you have to put runs on the board, no point blaming the bowlers. But we have enough quality and we can change things around. Tomorrow we hope somehow we can get away with a draw. But only God can help us."
Steve Finn, on England’s excellent day: "India made a great start to the day. We didn’t want to give away our last wickets as cheaply as we did. And then they batted very well for the rest of the first session.
"Swann got us off to the perfect start after lunch and we just built on it, not relenting with pressure on new batsmen. We will gladly take nine wickets down and it has been a magical day of Test cricket."
© Cricket World 2012
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