England dominated day two of the third Test against India in Kolkata as Alastair Cook became the youngest player to hit 7000 Test runs and the first English player to hit 23 Test centuries.
He made it five centuries in as many Tests as captain - also a record - and England closed on an impressive 216 for one after they dismissed India for 316.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni made 52 before Monty Panesar and Steven Finn mopped up the remainder of the Indian innings before it was over to England's batsmen to impose their authority on proceedings.
Cook was dropped by Cheteshwar Pujura on 17 but took full advantage, adding 165 with Nick Compton (57) for the first wicket, facing 236 balls with 19 fours and a six. Alongside him at stumps was Jonathan Trott, who had made 21.
England's superb start to the match has forced bet365 to bring them in to 8/11 to win the match, India have been pushed out to 9/1 and the draw is available at 6/4.
India began at their overnight total of 273 for seven with skipper Dhoni and Zaheer Khan at the crease, but England were bent on getting them early, restricting the flow of runs with Dhoni not shielding the tail-enders enough.
Zaheer's, and to a certain extent Ishant Sharma's, credentials warrant that to a degree, but not in such a compromising position. It showed soon enough as Panesar removed both to reduce the hosts to 296 for nine. Panesar finished with four for 90 from 40 overs and was the pick of the English attack.
Dhoni showed some urgency thereafter and in the company of Pragyan Ojha (0 not out) added 20 quick runs to the total, thereby taking India past 300 and helping himself to a half-century before a sharply rising delivery from Steven Finn ended the innings after 105 overs.
Dhoni was last out, after scoring 52 off 114 balls, including five fours and two sixes. Finn finished with one for 73 and Swann was the other single-wicket-taker, with figures of one for 46. James Anderson ended with three for 89.
India were short by nearly 50 runs as per Gautam Gambhir's reckoning after the first day’s play, but the fight they put up from then on mattered more. Surprisingly there wasn’t much of it as the English openers first watched carefully in the time to lunch and after that, they simply ground the Indian bowling down.
England went to lunch at 22 for no loss in 11 overs and India urgently needed to make a breakthrough. Zaheer induced an edge off Cook but Cheteshwar Pujara at first slip put it down. It was an odd field placement since Pujara had his shin pads on, and Virender Sehwag, who fielded at first slip for the first two Tests, was stationed at cover.
Ishant Sharma went past Cook’s bat a couple of times but his line and length wasn’t consistently good enough to force another mistake, and Cook didn’t make another, carrying on from where he left off in Mumbai, completing his 23rd Test hundred in domineering fashion.
The most striking part about his innings was the strike-rate, always flying well past 55. This from a batsman whose career strike-rate from 85 Tests doesn’t cross 50. Cook cut and swept with confidence, cover drove with elegance and smacked a six to showcase his ever-growing self-belief.
At the other end, Compton found much calm in his partner’s run-making and ground the Indian bowling further to get to his maiden Test half-century. The duo put on 165 runs for the first wicket in 53 overs, and it needed a wrong decision from umpire Rod Tucker to separate them.
Compton gloved a delivery from Ojha (1-65) while going for the sweep and was adjudged LBW, though Tucker himself didn’t appear too sure of the decision. Compton scored 57 off 137 balls, with six fours and one six. Meanwhile, Cook eased past the 100-run mark in the 52nd over of the innings.
Trott came out and was in no mood to relent the pressure built by the openers, taking his time settling in, raising a 51-run stand for the second wicket before stumps. He was unbeaten on 21 and Cook was on 136 not out when stumps were drawn. Zaheer, Ashwin and Ishant all toiled wicket-less and were mostly inconsistent in their efforts.
India’s fielding coach Trevor Penney on Pujara’s drop: "We are training Pujara to stand in the slips, he has been practising catching. He has good natural reflexes. But it’s not him alone, we are also working with Suresh Raina (when he is in the team), Virat Kohli and R Ashwin.
"Virender Sehwag too is an option, and we like to rotate our slip fielders. Pujara happened to be fielding there when the edge came, got his hands to it but couldn’t finish it. It happens."
Nick Compton on his maiden half-century and Alastair Cook’s batting: "I am chuffed with scoring my maiden Test fifty. I have put in a lot of hard and India is a tough place to make your debut, but I am also disappointed because I should have carried on. The umpire got it wrong because I had gloved it, but there’s no way he could have seen it, so no point being hard on him.
"Cook make batting with him so easy. Of course we are still building our communication and I am still learning the ropes. But I am 29 years old and he is breaking records at 27. He has already sorted out everything and he is an amazing player. He is unflappable at the crease."
© Cricket World 2012
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