India v England, 3rd Test, Kolkata, 4th day December 8, 2012

England on brink of back-to-back Test wins


India 316 (Tendulkar 76, Gambhir 60, Dhoni 52, Panesar 4-90, Anderson 3-89) and 239 for 9 (Ashwin 83*, Finn 3-37, Anderson 2-38, Swann 2-70) lead England 523 (Cook 190, Trott 87, Trott 57, Pietersen 54, Ojha 4-142) by 32 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

For a major part of Saturday, the Barmy Army's band played loud and cheerfully at Eden Gardens as England all but consigned India to their first set of consecutive home Test defeats since 1999-2000.

It was fitting that the "band" drowned out the despondent Indian contingent in the stands, putting in place the jingoistic advertisements put together by the host broadcasters, which ridiculed English people.

The England supporters, though, were silenced a little in the morning session by a mini comeback from India. It was ruthlessly stomped over by Graeme Swann, so far a great support act to Monty Panesar in the series. Just when it seemed India might be slipping away from them for the first time in the Test, Swann assumed the lead role just after lunch.

India had taken England's last four wickets cheaply, then gone to lunch without damage but Swann came back to burst through Virender Sehwag's gate. Cats among pigeons cause less panic. Under relentless pressure, India batted and ran like headless chickens, and went from 86 for 0 to 239 for 9.

When England went into lunch having lost four wickets in 4.3 overs and then conceded 86 runs in 21 wicketless overs, there might have been thoughts of Chennai 2008-09 at the back of their heads. Swann had himself dropped Sehwag on 7 and seen him race to 49 by the break. India were only 121 behind. Out comes Swann and tosses one outside off, putting all his might in trying to turn the ball, creating a gap between Sehwag's pad and his open face, and then hitting the top of off.

India were now like a house of cards in a bicycle stand. Gautam Gambhir, who was assured in Sehwag's company, and Cheteshwar Pujara looked like they would get out any ball. Steven Finn, bowling reverse swing at high pace, and Swann were relentless. The pitch that had looked docile thus far began exploding all of a sudden. It was merely the amount of action put into the ball.

After just 12 runs in close to eight overs in that partnership, Gambhir called Pujara through for a risky single and Ian Bell hit the stumps direct from short midwicket. You could imagine England bowlers fighting to get a bowl now; there were easy wickets on offer.

Gambhir was nearly gone when a replay to check the validity of a low catch off Swann revealed he hadn't edged it at all. In the next over, Gambhir went driving at a wide and full ball from Finn, edging him through to Matt Prior. Just to prolong his agony, the umpires asked him to wait at the edge of the boundary as they checked for a foot fault that wasn't.

With Gambhir finally gone, focus turned to Sachin Tendulkar, playing surely his last Test innings at Eden Gardens. He had got four with a trademark lap sweep but, two balls later, stayed back to an offbreak pitched on a length. The ball from Swann didn't turn as much as he expected it to, and took the outside edge to Jonathan Trott at slip: 107 for 4.

Before India could draw breath, Finn was replaced by an even more threatening James Anderson. Reverse swing at high pace again. Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh somehow added 15 before Anderson bowled one short of a length, and it shot low to take the bottom edge and crash into Yuvraj's stumps. MS Dhoni came in. MS Dhoni got one short outside off. MS Dhoni followed it tamely. MS Dhoni went back: 122 for 6.

Kohli was next, beautifully set up by Finn. Immediately after reversing one ball in to Kohli's bat handle, Finn inverted the shine of the ball and got it to move away. Kohli didn't have the discipline, followed it, and was taken at the wicket. He followed it with a symbolic wicket of Zaheer Khan with a reversing inswinger. Here was a former master of reverse swing who has become an innocuous trundler being shown how to do it.

A bit of comedy followed. Panesar, who had been sawn off for a golden duck in the morning, had both Ashwin and Ishant Sharma missed off his bowling. If looks could kill, England would be looking for a new wicketkeeper.

R Ashwin, arguably India's most consistent Test batsman this year, continued to show he is a better batsman than he is a spinner. In the company of the obdurate Ishant Sharma and Pragyan Ojha, he added 80 in 29.3 overs. All it did was help find the spirited Indian crowd some voice, avoid an innings defeat, and take the match into the final day.

It also brought up a statistic that sums up India's series. His batting average for the series now crossed 50, behind only Pujara's, but it was still lower than his own bowling average.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mehedi on December 9, 2012, 0:18 GMT

    @ Satyavan Sharma, Your statement , "If Sehwag and Gambhir can play long innings, then the others could contribute too." is laughable :D. if Cook and Compton plays well others can contribute too, or Simith and Peterson plays well other can contribute in SA team. The truth is Cook , compton, Smith, Peterson etc are contributing and Sehwag and Gambhir simply is not. One thing is right, over the years when Sehwag gave a good start and Dravid gave the solidity, Laxman gave finishing, SRT contributed something meaningful. Without others SRT is exposed naked. And yes, team gave the Britain players a very good surprise indeed :D

  • Nilanka on December 8, 2012, 23:56 GMT

    I wonder where are the people who said "England can't play spin". "This is a revenge series after 4-0" defeat in England", Used the word minnows to insult other giant test playing teams who are miles ahead of India in test cricket, told India is the "Worlds best team(tm)". I think they must be sleeping now dreaming India is still better in one dayers and 20-20 LOL.

  • Dummy4 on December 8, 2012, 23:39 GMT

    Sehwag said Bangladesh are ordinary...,in india's current form in tests now, Bangladesh would beat them lol

  • Don on December 8, 2012, 23:27 GMT

    I was wondering when you were going to crawl out of the woodwork RandyOZ usual boring drivel.....from you that is, not the cricket! You seem to take to slagging us off when you have nothing to crow about for your own team.

  • Mark on December 8, 2012, 23:26 GMT

    @RandyOz, it's good to have you back. You have been quiet for weeks and we've been missing you on here. If you count the #2 Test team as a minnow you are so right. And next summer England will have more mid-table opposition and we've all seen the depressed posts by Australians giving that series up as a certain loss for you. Not so sure about the dead pitches and, if it is boring, no need to watch. I think though that most people will disagree with you on the boring bit, here has been some gripping Test cricket this winter and that has included series including much lower ranked sides than India. Unfortuntely the T20 mentality is invading at all levels: if it's longer than 20 overs, it must be boring. In fact, series like this are showing just how exciting Test cricket can be: no waiting around a full day to see if a weak attack can somehow knock over the tail!

  • Michael on December 8, 2012, 23:22 GMT

    Totally brilliant from England with those destructive qualities that went AWOL during the earlier part of the year. Without wanting to look too gfar ahead I am looking forward to Nagpur nonetheless while I enjpoy this victory in Kolkata,assuming ashwin does not get to 400 today. Hopefully an hour will see to this and we will have one hand on the series.

  • Neil on December 8, 2012, 23:20 GMT

    I am and England fan and obviously delighted, but we havent actually won the let us enjoy the win, but not gloat about it....and Indian fans have patience, England maz now be favorites, but is perfectly conceivable you could win the next match and there will be talk of a great fight back.....Ashwin looks a geunine allrounder and talented bowler who just needs time....where was Swann at his age ?

  • Imran on December 8, 2012, 23:18 GMT

    Well done England. Patel should be replaced with morgan. Cook, KP, Prior, Swan and monty are stars of this series. This series proves that Pakistan has far better test team than india because they beat England 4-0 in not even on home picthes and crowd. There is gona be a cracking test series between South Africa and Pakistan. Looking forward to it.

  • andy on December 8, 2012, 23:01 GMT

    @RandyOZ...This battle of the minnows is incredibly boring to watch. Two average teams slogging it out on dead pitches. No wonder the crowds arent there....if england classed as minnows what does that make australia..memory served me right we won 3-1 last time we visited your shores,,and by big margins to boot

  • Dummy4 on December 8, 2012, 22:49 GMT

    Its not over folks...this is Eden garden where stranger things have happened. If India somehow gets a lead of 100 in these conditions, it could get tricky for England, if they lose Cook and Pietersen in quick succession.... u never know what might happen

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