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  • India v England, 3rd Test, Kolkata, 3rd day

England batsmen tighten grip on game

The Report by Siddarth Ravindran
December 7, 2012
England 509 for 6 (Cook 190, Trott 87, Compton 57, Pietersen 54) lead India 316 by 193 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

File photo: Jonathan Trott made his first substantial score of the series (ESPN is not carrying photographs from the tour due to curbs on the media) © Getty Images
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The feeling of helplessness that enveloped much of India's horrendous tours of England and Australia descended again on MS Dhoni's side on the third day at Eden Gardens, as two of the most bloody-minded batsmen in world cricket, Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott, set about grinding down toothless bowling in the morning.

After lunch, India managed to dismiss both of them, but that didn't alter England's dominance of the match as Kevin Pietersen and the lower order stacked up some quick runs to stretch the lead towards a comfortable 200.

The moment typifying India's ineptness was Ishant Sharma putting down an absolute dolly off his own bowling when Cook was on 156. A rare Cook mistake sent the ball looping towards Ishant at waist height and at slow pace, but Ishant contrived to fluff that chance, the ball missing his palm and hitting the wrist. Ishant was left scratching his head in disappointment, while MS Dhoni maintained his famously expressionless demeanour.

Neither the old ball nor the new one swung, and though there was some uneven bounce - Cook was once surprised by a lifter from Ishant that struck the bat handle - the batsmen weren't tested much by the quicks as they wiped out the deficit.

India's spinners turned in a much-improved effort after Thursday's disappointing show, bowling accurately with the old ball in the first hour before getting some bounce and turn with the shiny one. In the second session, they got some help from the pitch as well, spinning the ball past the outside edge several times, and asking questions of the well-set Cook and Trott.

Nothing took the shine off Cook's golden tour, though, as he completed 26 hours of batting in the series, the longest day for India's bowlers. As usual there was no extravagance from him, patiently blocking or leaving countless deliveries, before cashing in on those that were over pitched or on his pads.

Trott had missed out in the first two Tests, but not this time. He was cautious early in the morning, but soon helped himself to the gifts offered by India's bowlers, especially Zaheer Khan and Ishant. Zaheer gave him several deliveries on the pads to put away, while Ishant bowled plenty short and wide. Before long, Trott was calmly dispatching R Ashwin's variation, the carrom ball, for four, and walking out of the crease before driving.

When England's tailenders were out in the middle practising their batting during the lunch break, one wondered why they bothered, given how bleak India's chances of prising apart the Cook-Trott combination looked. The stand finally came to an end on 173 when Pragyan Ojha managed to get a flat delivery to spin away and take Trott's outside edge to Dhoni.

Trott fell 13 short of a hundred, but Cook seemed set for a double, given his massive powers of concentration, and unquenchable thirst for runs. However, Cook too fell short of the milestone, run-out on 190 after a brain-fade. After Pietersen clipped a ball to square leg, Cook took a few strides before turning back. The ball went to India's best fielder, Virat Kohli, who scored a direct hit after Cook jumped back and lifted his bat to avoid the throw. Cook hadn't grounded his bat, so there was no question of him escaping on account of evasive action, and he was run-out for the first time in his Test career.

Though India had removed both of England's accumulators, they still had to deal with the more aggressive threat provided by Pietersen. The Barmy Army who had boisterously cheered the dogged-but-effective scoring of Cook and Trott were treated to some flamboyant shots from Pietersen, who nonchalantly whipped balls from outside off to the leg-side boundary. With less than 10 minutes to tea, he launched Ojha for a straight six, and began the final session with three successive boundaries.

He was toying with the attack, dispatching the ball where he liked and galloped to yet another half-century. However, he missed a sweep soon after was trapped lbw for 54. Even that didn't lead to a slowdown as Samit Patel capitalised on a tiring attack, and crashed a brisk 33. His chance of making it into a sizeable innings ended when he nicked a catch to slip, where Virender Sehwag juggled before holding on.

On what was a depressing day for India fans, one of the most disappointing phases was hour before stumps. After Samit Patel was dismissed, India needed just one more wicket to get into England's bonafide tailenders. Instead, Matt Prior and Graeme Swann pummelled 56 runs in the final 13 overs, the highlight of which was a majestic pull for six by Prior off Ishant.

India have not lost two home Tests in a row since early 2000, a streak that looks set to come to an end over the next couple of days, unless their faltering batting order finds someone to replicate Cook's marathon efforts this series.

Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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