India closed day three of the fourth and final Test against England 33 runs behind on 297 for eight in their first innings after a dramatic turn of events in the final session.
Replying to England's 330, Virat Kohli (103) and Mahendra Singh Dhoni (99) had batted through the first two sessions but their dismissals after tea, along with those of Ravindra Jadeja (12) and Piyush Chawla (1) altered the complexion of the game.
Kohli stroked a determined, gritty third Test century while Dhoni became the 15th man to be run out in Tests on 99 soon after their marathon 198-run partnership had been broken.
The pair started on the overnight score of 87 for four with a mountain to climb ahead of them, but they did not baulk at the challenge, showing absolutely no hurry in scoring runs.
Instead they seemingly took the session over by over, perhaps even ball by ball, as England kept searching for an early wicket. The visitors used attacking fields, with no slips but two men catching on either side of the wicket at cover and mid-wicket to Kohli, with James Anderson bowling. When the spinners bowled, they again made scoring runs difficult with mid-off and cover short, asking the batsmen to grind their runs.
And that is precisely what they did. Kohli and Dhoni waited for the bad balls to arrive, and there weren’t many of them as England bowled with discipline and to a plan, with the fielding to back it up.
Even so, India went to lunch at 146 for four, without the loss of any wicket and adding only 59 runs in the first two hours. It was only the third time in the series that an Indian pairing had batted out a session, quite a telling fact.
The duo carried on in the same vein after lunch, cutting out the risks, though increasing the pace of run-scoring. Both batsmen brought up their half-centuries, a second consecutive Test fifty for Dhoni while a first for Kohli in this series. But the job was still not done.
England took the new ball and that was a massive moment for them to break this partnership. It was equally challenging for the batsmen to not lose their wickets after having done all the hard work. Dhoni did struggle initially against Anderson but he soon settled down. Kohli at the other end did not have much trouble.
India took tea at 227 for four, going two sessions without losing a wicket for the first time in the series and in the last session of the day, Kohli reached his hundred, again a first for the series. There was relief on his face as much as joy, for the innings took a long time coming.
He couldn’t carry on though, as the final hour of play started fatefully for India. Graeme Swann trapped Kohli lbw first ball after the drinks break. He scored 103 runs off 295 balls, with eleven fours. With Dhoni he put up 198 runs, having batted together for 84.3 overs. This was the highest partnership for India in this Test series as also the highest partnership for any Indian wicket in Test cricket in 2012. It reflects on the sorry state of affairs the team has been going through of late.
Kohli’s dismissal brought debutant Jadeja (12) to the crease but Anderson (4-78) was bowling a fiery spell and trapped him in front. Dhoni was the next to go, painfully run out for 99, as he had to go around Anderson and was very close to making the crease on time.
His runs came off 246 balls, including nine fours and one six. Two runs later, Piyush Chawla (1) was bowled by Swann (3-76), as England wrested back the initiative with four strikes inside the hour. At stumps, India were 297 for eight in 130.1 overs, still trailing by 33 runs.
England lead the series 2-1 and need only a draw to claim a first series win in India since 1985.
Select quotes from the day:
Jonathan Trott on India’s fight-back: "You have to give credit to Dhoni and Kohli for the way they batted. It is a flat wicket but it is a good Test wicket, because you cannot come to the crease and start scoring runs from the word go. You need to show some patience and settle down first. India showed the way today.
"Dhoni’s run-out could be a turning point. We got lucky with a run-out in Kolkata and now we got one here, they can change the game."
Virat Kohli on his hundred and the way forward for India: "I was eager to do well in this series, perhaps too eager. Sometimes luck didn’t go my way, at other times I made some mistakes. But cricket is about ups and downs and this series has been tough.
"I am happy with this hundred and have learnt a lot from it. Both Dhoni and I had to change our natural attacking game and buckle down. He worked hard and the team is disappointed he didn’t get a hundred. We didn’t think about the runs or the time, we just batted it out one over at a time. It isn’t an easy pitch, batting fourth won’t be easy."
© Cricket World 2012
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