If Lord's can somehow escape further rain there will be a positive outcome to this intensely fought match. England hold the upper hand after a dazzling century from Kevin Pietersen set India 380 despite RP Singh's career-best five-wicket haul. Dinesh Karthik glued India's chase together with a gutsy half century, but England have already removed Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar, trapped lbw by Monty Panesar who nearly finished his celebrations in another postcode.
The contest didn't take a significant swing to either side until Pietersen exploded in the hour after lunch, taking 29 balls to move from 62 to his century, adding 119 with Matt Prior. He is never one to hold back, but there was raw emotion on display as he enjoyed his hundred, suggesting that he'd answered a few questions following recent reaction to his comments about fatigue. He also gave England a healthy advantage - only three times has more than 380 been chased down in a Test.
India began more positively than in the first innings with Karthik dealing in boundaries for his first 20 runs and both he and Wasim Jaffer eager for the quick singles. Michael Vaughan, who has been at his most thoughtful and inventive as captain throughout the match, tinkered with the field and Jaffer obliged by clipping James Anderson to Pietersen at midwicket. Karthik might have gone in the same fashion next over, but Vaughan had pushed the man deeper and Karthik eventually reached his fifty, off 101 balls. He and Sourav Ganguly survived a few scares, particularly from Panesar, but posted a vital fifty stand.
Dravid completed a low-key match with the bat, although was unfortunate with Simon Taufel's decision after he was struck outside off stump by Chris Tremlett. The ground then stood, not for the outgoing Dravid but for the incoming Tendulkar. It was probably his final Test innings at Lord's and a delicate early drive off Panesar and a more powerful repeat off Anderson suggested he wanted to finally leave a mark on the ground.
But Panesar was already into a good rhythm, looping the ball nicely from the Nursery End and finding turn not only from the foot marks. However, it was a smart piece of deception that did for Tendulkar as, almost in a repeat of Panesar's first Test wicket at Nagpur, he sent down an arm ball. Tendulkar initially shaped to leave and was struck in line with off stump. Steve Bucknor did the rest and Panesar was half way to the boundary before his team-mates caught up with him. After earlier witnessing an almost angry celebration from Pietersen, Panesar's was sheer joy.
Pietersen's innings is worthy of match-winning status, coming as it did after England had wobbled against a sharp spell from Singh. Vaughan was swung out before both Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell fell to the short ball as three wickets went for 30 in six overs. Pietersen began the day on 15 and had to be watchful throughout the first session but two boundaries off Singh's first over of the afternoon session showed his intent and he raced through the nineties by taking Anil Kumble to the cleaners. He cut a short ball to the cover fence, lofted a handsome six towards the media centre and reached three figures with a wristy flick through midwicket. The one-legged flick through midwicket also made an appearance and Pietersen's few days of R&R appear to have worked wonders. Of the 205 runs England added, 119 came from Pietersen's bat.
Prior played an important hand, remaining in Pietersen's shadow except for the occasional reminder that he, too, can take an attack apart. The seventh-wicket stand, scored at nearly five an over, was exactly what England hoped Prior would bring to the side in such a position with a match in the balance. It took a cracking delivery from Zaheer Khan to end the stand, the ball moving late to take the outside edge, and Zaheer was on a hat-trick as Tremlett unluckily dragged on to complete a debut pair. However, India's body language showed they knew the situation had run away from them.
It was very different during the morning as, for the second time in the match, Singh's switch to round-the-wicket caused Vaughan's downfall. After edging a drive wide of second slip Vaughan got an inside edge as he drove again - this time the ball swinging in - and lost his off stump. Collingwood, after avoiding a pair, found himself in a tangle against Singh's well-directed bouncer. The short ball has been used sparingly in this Test and Collingwood was slow to react, gloving to VVS Laxman at second slip as he tried to duck.
Singh's short spell with Leicestershire earlier this season didn't set pulses racing with eight wickets at 31 in two matches. The past few days, though, he has caught England's batsmen by surprise with his pace and has shown the ability to move the ball both ways. He dismissed Bell through a dragged-on pull, from a ball which didn't bounce as much as the batsman expected, and returned to close the innings with the scalps of Pietersen and Panesar.
However, India were still left with a daunting target. The loss of two key players made the task even tougher but they battled hard during the final session. All results are still possible and a dry final day is what this absorbing match deserves.