Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir scored half-centuries as England made India work hard for their runs on the opening day of the third Test in Kolkata.
Gambhir made 60 and Tendulkar 76 as the home side closed on 273 for seven but England, led by James Anderson's three wickets, could be pleased with their efforts on a pitch that was far from lively.
Following the day's play, bet365 make India 6/5 favourites to win with England 21/10 and the draw 5/2.
Monty Panesar chipped in with a brace of wickets and there was one for Graeme Swann although the returning Steven Finn went wicketless.
Anderson, who moved the ball for most of the day, finished with figures of three for 68, Gambhir made 60 in 124 balls and Tendulkar's 76 took him 155 deliveries. A disciplined effort from England necessitated such patience.
Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni won the toss for the third time in three matches and had no qualms about batting first. India made one change from Mumbai, with Ishant Sharma coming in for Harbhajan Singh. England dropped Stuart Broad for the first time in nearly four years, bringing Steven Finn in as well as Ian Bell for Jonny Bairstow.
The pitch rolled out for this Test, after much drama over its character, is one where batting first and getting a good total on the board will matter a lot. It won't take much spin until day three perhaps and even then will be a slow turner, though the bounce is decent unlike Ahmedabad. Despite that, England would have liked to bat first.
Indian openers Sehwag and Gambhir didn’t get off to a flier as they did in Ahmedabad, on account of caution. Anderson and Finn tested them initially, with Panesar deployed in the eighth over of the innings.
The first opening pair added 47 runs when in the 11th over, a horrendous mix-up cost Sehwag his wicket. Gambhir didn’t respond in time as Samit Patel made a great stop in the deep and Matt Prior made no mistake in running out Sehwag.
Cheteshwar Pujara (16) walked in and walked back out soon enough, as Panesar's arm-ball got through his defences. With the score at 88 for two, Tendulkar walked out to face 15 minutes before lunch. He passed this first Test, with tremendous pressure on his shoulders.
After lunch, England continued from where they left off, not allowing the two batsmen to score freely. Tendulkar scratched around, looking to fight it out rather than surrender his wicket tamely.
At the other end, Gambhir brought up his half-century. He would have liked to carry on but Panesar induced an ambitious cut from him and Jonathan Trott didn’t make any mistake at slip.
Gambhir was out for 60 off 124 balls and England were dominating on a pitch that supported batsmen more than bowlers on day one. They took control of proceedings by sending Virat Kohli (6) back again cheaply, their plan of curbing his scoring early on working well once again.
Yuvraj Singh came in next and was severely tested by Swann, but both him and Tendulkar persisted under intense pressure. Slowly the runs started flowing as Alastair Cook changed his bowlers around. They put up 79 runs in 19.5 overs, hitting out against the tight bowling and Tendulkar completed his half century in the 59th over of the innings, his first since Sydney in January.
Yuvraj fell after tea, having scored 32 runs off 54 balls, inclusive of four fours and one six. For all his aggression, it was Swann who took the wicket, inducing a tame shot which Cook lapped up.
England had once again wrested back the initiative, reducing India to 215 for 5. Six overs later, James Anderson, who had been bowling a testing spell of reverse swing with the old ball, got Tendulkar with a beauty that moved away just enough.
It was the eighth time he had dismissed him in Test cricket as Prior latched on to a low catch to send the Little Master back for 76 runs, scored off 155 balls. He also hit 13 boundaries.
Dhoni was joined in the middle by Ravichandran Ashwin and the two put on 38 runs for the seventh wicket. Just when it seemed they might see play through until stumps, England took the new ball with four overs remaining and Anderson bowled Ashwin (21) in the penultimate over. He finished with three for 68 for his efforts, and was well supported by Monty Panesar (2-74) and Swann (1-46). Finn went wicketless, finishing with 20-2-69-0.
Gautam Gambhir, on India’s collapse once again and their future plans: "It was important for me or Sachin to get a big one. It is disappointing that we couldn’t convert our starts. The middle order is inexperienced yes, but that is not an excuse. This is not a place to learn, but a place to perform for the country.
"Tomorrow, the first hour is very crucial. We were hoping Ashwin could stay unbeaten at stumps. It is important to get 350 runs on the board and with the ball reversing quite a bit, we can fight thereafter."
James Anderson, on Tendulkar and reverse swing: "Sachin isn’t my bunny. I don’t bowl any different to him than I do to other batsmen. The eight dismissals just happened, I don’t know how. He was the key dismissal for us, he was looking set for a big knock and we know that can be dangerous.
"The pitch is different from Mumbai and Ahmedabad, it is a lot more abrasive. The new ball is seaming and the old ball is reversing quite a bit. It will be a factor throughout the match."
© Cricket World 2012
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