• India v England, 4th Test, Nagpur, 3rd day

Dhoni out for 99 as England hit back

The Report by Andrew McGlashan
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India 297 for 8 (Kohli 103, Dhoni 99) trail England 330 by 33 runs
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File photo: MS Dhoni was needlessly run out for 99 (ESPN is not carrying photographs from the tour due to curbs on the media) © PA Photos
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India still have hope of levelling the series against England after a mammoth stand of 198 between Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni on the third day in Nagpur, but their chances of a lead were hit by the loss of late wickets.

The Test continued to move along in slow-motion - a tempo dictated by the pitch - but Kohli responded with his most mature Test innings and Dhoni looked set to join him on three figures only to be run out for 99 shortly before the close after his innings seized up in the nineties.

As much as the first two sessions were a credit to India, who showed the fighting spirit that has been lacking at stages in this series, the final hour highlighted England's standards of perseverance and fitness as they claimed 4 for 28.

Before tea a few frustrations had started to emerge but they maintained, or regained, their focus. It started with Kohli, lbw to Graeme Swann from around the wicket, then the debutant, Ravindra Jadeja, was trapped in front by James Anderson.

Dhoni spent more than an hour in the 90s before trying for his hundred with a single to mid-off where Alastair Cook swooped and hit directly. It was a one-frame job for the third umpire, S Ravi, but the straight-on view showed clearly the bat was not over the line. To cap England's comeback Swann bowled Piyush Chawla with the first ball of the last over.

Even though the day largely consisted of watching two of the finest attacking batsman in the world, the batting was rarely pretty, except when Kohli was playing his cover drive on the way to a third Test century. In 89.1 overs India added 210 runs but batting through the day was the minimum they needed if they were to stand any chance of levelling the series. Conceding a large lead, which appeared likely when they resumed on 87 for 4, would have left them with no way back but now they have the opportunity to apply some pressure to England over the final two days.

Dhoni's slowest Test fifty turned into his longest Test innings, but the longer he and Kohli remained, the greater the prospect of India building a lead and leaving England with nothing to do but bat out time. The final hour scuppered those plans. Still, from India's point of view the game needed to move forward because they still need time to take ten England wickets to stand any chance. Strange things can happen in the third innings of Tests even though such benign conditions do not suggest dramatic developments.

As with many players in the India team both Kohli and Dhoni were men under pressure, Kohli because of a lean series at the end of a profitable year and Dhoni because he is leading a side that is underperforming while his own returns have not been overwhelming. So it was to their immense credit that they resisted and shelved the free-flowing scoring they are known for although it was another example, as with Joe Root, that run-scoring, not survival, is the main challenge on this surface.

Kohli's was a magnificent display because it was out of character. He loves nothing more than to go after the bowling and it has been his downfall at times in this series. Here, though, it was about defence first and attacking second. Only when the ball was very full or short did he allow himself the luxury of either a drive or a cut. His hundred came off 289 balls with a crisp back-foot drive off Swann, his 11th boundary, before Swann finally gave England some relief when Kohli was lbw from around the wicket.

The ball had turned just enough to beat the forward defence and would have hit leg stump and meant that checking the record books could stop. Only on three previous occasion - Barbados in 1960, Chennai in 1982 and Trent Bridge in 1989 - had England gone wicketless in the day. A handful of overs later and they would have been delighted with their haul of four scalps.

There was precious little on offer for the bowlers throughout the day. The significant reverse swing of the previous evening could not be replicated early on to show how these things are not an exact science.

Anderson was used carefully by Cook sending down 15 overs in the day and appeared to be struggling with a leg problem near the close but still had the skill to remove Jadeja. Tim Bresnan toiled away at the end of a poor year for him while the spinners were tight but was stymied by the unresponsive pitch although Monty Panesar did manage to spin a couple past the bat during a wicketless 46-over stint.

The second new ball was taken almost straight away but, if anything, the extra hardness aided India for a time. Dhoni slashed the first delivery from Anderson through point and later launched Swann over deep midwicket for the first six of the innings.

They were occasional moments of aggression and acceleration even though India are chasing the series. But a bad day for them and it would have been over. Thanks to Dhoni and Kohli they live to fight on.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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