An outstanding Kevin Pietersen century, another three-figure score for captain Alastair Cook and a Monty Panesar five-wicket haul have put England in with a good chance of claiming victory in the second Test against India in Mumbai.
Pietersen (186) and Cook (122) were the star performers as England hit 413 in reply to India's 327, after which a flurry of wickets - for both sides - left India reeling at stumps on 117 for seven.
England began their day at 178 for two and India needed to send back Cook and Pietersen quickly. Instead they bowled poorly, set defensive fields and waited for something to happen.
It didn’t as the batsmen motored along with ease, both bringing up their 22nd Test centuries. Cook got there first, in the 76th over of the innings, while Pietersen got their two overs later.
India continued to toil and almost an hour into the day, the breakthrough did come, with Pragyan Ojha inducing a sharp edge off Cook. He scored 122 runs off 336 balls, hitting thirteen fours and one six.
The hosts smelled a chance therein and removed Jonny Bairstow (9) on the stroke of lunch. It was a controversial decision, since the ball appeared to have touched Gautam Gambhir’s protective helmet at silly point. It is reported that the umpires asked Mahendra Singh Dhoni if he wanted to recall the batsman, but apparentlythat was turned down, unlike Ian Bell in 2011.
Moving on then, after lunch, Ojha and Ashwin bowled tight lines to ward off easy runs. It paid dividends as wickets started tumbling. Samit Patel (26) was the first to go and then Pietersen, the latter falling within touching distance of his double-hundred.
He scored 186 runs off 316 balls, with 20 fours and four sixes. Matt Prior (21) was run out wastefully as England crossed the 400-run mark, and then Ashwin (2-145) and Harbhajan Singh (2-74) cleaned up the tail.
The visitors were bowled out for 413 with a lead of 86 runs. Ojha finished with five for 143 while Zaheer Khan (0-37) and Yuvraj Singh (0-8) went wicketless.
India’s second innings never really took off, turning before long into a disaster of epic propotions. Panesar opened the bowling with James Anderson and was right on the money from the word go. Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir added 30 runs before the first wicket fell, Sehwag (9) edging to slip. Then, India lost seven more wickets for just 80-odd runs to end the day at a meagre 117 for seven.
Cheteshwar Pujara (6) had his first failure of the series, while Virat Kohli (7) continued playing loose shots and paid the price.
Sachin Tendulkar, perhaps batting for the last time at his home ground, scored eight runs before being soundly beaten again by Panesar.
Yuvraj Singh went for eight runs too and skipper Dhoni was out for just six runs, as Panesar completed his ten-wicket haul from the match. He finished the day with five for 61, Ashwin the last batsman out to him. Swann chipped in with two for 39 from the other end as India were left clutching at straws.
Gambhir waged a lone battle with an unbeaten half century, but with just Harbhajan, Ojha and Zaheer for company, it is an uphill battle for the Indians from here on.
The clatter of wickets - 17 in the day - left India with a lead of 31 going into the final two days as they try to protect their 1-0 series lead.
Select quotes from day three:
Kevin Pietersen on his hundred and England spinners: "It was one of my best hundreds, it will be more so if we win this Test. I love scoring runs for England. The dressing room is fantastic and we are all supporting each other. It will be more so if we end up victorious here.
"Our spinners bowled at a much better pace. Graeme Swann is one of the top two or three spinners in the world and Monty Panesar always takes wickets for us.’"
Gautam Gambhir on India’s poor bowling and if they had a chance anymore: "Our spinners didn’t bowl at the right pace. They bowled quicker or slower, never settling down. But credit is also due to Cook-Pietersen partnership. None of their other batsmen scored runs and they were the only ones who made the difference.
"But we haven’t lost yet. If somehow we can manage to set a target of 120-130, there’s no reason why we cannot bowl better and do the same to England."
© Cricket World 2012
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