England edge ahead

James Anderson took four Indian wickets as the home side, who are only in need of a draw, were bowled out for just 279 on the third day of play in Mumbai. The seam attack, generally, dominated proceedings and bowled probingly throughout the day providing Geraint Jones with five catches behind the stumps, one of the wicket-keeper’s best performances.

Thanks to the effort displayed by their bowlers throughout the first two sessions, England started their second innings with a 121-run lead, and a real chance of winning the match that they need to draw the series. However, the solid base that had been made was soon cracking when Andrew Strauss, who scored a magnificent 128 in the first-innings but otherwise had struggled to find form in the series, edged a slower ball from the bowling of Munaf Patel. Dhoni completed the downfall of the opener with a fine catch diving in front of the slips.

Ian Bell, having been promoted to opening the English innings from his number three position, continued his poor run of form by edging a Sreesanth ball that was outside off-stump to Dhoni, who gladly took his second catch of the innings.

Following the loss of Bell and Strauss early on, Shaun Udal, England’s nightwatchman, came in to avoid any more casualties as the and of the day’s play drew nearer. Udal completed his objective with Owais Shah, who had only recently been called up from the ‘A’ team’s tour and had scored an excellent 88 in the first innings, coming in at number three. At the close of play, England lead India by 150 runs.

India, resuming on 89 for the loss of three wickets, dug themselves into an even deeper hole as early English pressure paid off. Yuvraj Singh, a batsman whose temperament has been questioned at times, went for a wide ball bowled by Andrew Flintoff and nicked it behind to Jones who dived spectacularly in front of first slip. Joy for England, they’d got their man early on; India were 94 for four.

Following Singh’s dismissal came Dhoni, another Indian batsman with a reputation for being an ultra-aggressive strokeplayer. However, Dhoni defied his natural instincts to go after the bowling and played a superb innings of 64. The wicket-keeper played the English spinners contently, and picked off the bad balls with merciless efficiency. It was his partnership with Dravid, who looked ever immoveable, that gave the home side hope after their dreadful start the previous night.

The pair had almost brought up their fifty-partnership when Dravid gloved a ball bowled by the rejuvenated Anderson down the leg-side, and was caught by a diving Jones. The fantastic catch wrapped up a good innings and put England firmly in the ascendancy with Pathan, India’s last recognised run-scorer, coming in next.

Pathan forged a pleasant partnership with Dhoni, but only managed to add 26 in 80 balls before Shaun Udal, who had been daring to flight the ball a little higher in contrast to Panesar who was bowling with a much lower trajectory, lofted one up and induced the all-rounder down the pitch. Pathan attempted to strike the ball into the stands, but only succeeded in finding the hands of Hoggard who hung on well at long-on.

Dhoni managed to add another 26 runs with Harbhajan Singh before James Anderson ran him out. However, the wicket was only given after the umpires referred the decision to the third-umpire due to the fact that they were unsure whether the bail had been removed in-time. Nevertheless, the red light showed and Dhoni’s excellent innings ended with India poised on 212 for seven with just their tail to come.

Despite the distinct lack of depth left, Anil Kumble put on 55 with Sreesanth before Anderson yorked Munaf Patel, and ended with figures of 19.1 overs, eight maidens, 40 runs for four wickets, a commendable achievement.

So, India have fought back well by taking a few vital English wickets late on, but they must dismiss England for a score below 200 if they are to have any chance to winning. However, if England can take a few wickets late on tomorrow having scored quickly throughout the day, then a win may be in their sights.

England 400 All out
Andrew Strauss 128, Owais Shah 88, Andrew Flintoff 50
Sreesanth 4-70, Harbhajan Singh 3-89

India 279 All out
Mahendra Singh Dhoni 64, Rahul Dravid 52
Matthew Hoggard 2-54, James Anderson 4-40

England 29/2
Owais Shah 15*

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