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Battling Ashwin forces Kolkata Test into an extra day

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swann_celebratesEngland are a wicket and a pocketful of runs away from taking a shock 2-1 lead in the 4-match series against India, having reduced their hosts to 239-9 after another stellar bowling effort from James Anderson and Steven Finn. India won a rare session in this test match, by knocking over the overnight English batsmen for a negligible addition to the score as England took a 207 run lead into the second innings. The Indian openers started well, adding 86 for the first wicket heading into lunch. However, England came back strongly in the second session to pick up 6 wickets for 36 runs to rout the Indian top order before a battling unbeaten 83 from Ravichandran Ashwin delayed the inevitable. The young Tamil Nadu allrounder did benefit though from Matt Prior missing a routine stumping when Ashwin was on 22.

Needing 4 wickets to wrap up the England innings, the Indian bowlers got amongst the wickets quickly on day 4. Resuming on 509-6, England were dismissed for 523, an addition of just 14 runs.

The first to go was Graeme Swann (21), caught at slip off the bowling of Pragyan Ojha. Zaheer Khan then got the dangerous Matt Prior (41) to nick one to the keeper in the very next over to get his first wicket of the match.
Ravichandran Ashwin, who bowled well without much luck on day 3 eventually got some reward on day 4, as he picked up Jimmy Anderson (9), caught in the slips before getting Monty Panesar(0) adjudged lbw, despite the batsman having got a big inside edge.

It was all a little too late for India though as England were already firmly in the driver's seat, having amassed a 207 run lead.

The Indian openers, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir had half an hour to play out before drinks and they were troubled by the English bowlers. England's pace duo of Jimmy Anderson and Steve Finn bowled a good length and got the ball to move off the track, beating the bat on a couple of occasions and induced a few false strokes. At drinks in the first session India were 27/0, still 180 behind England.

The hour leading up to Lunch was the Sehwag-Gambhir show. Still a fair way behind the England lead, Virender Sehwag decided to take the attack to England. The swashbuckling right hander attacked the spin of Graeme Swann cleverly by sweeping him with the turn to the square leg boundary a couple of times before making the most of part time bowler Samit Patel and launching him down the ground. India were scoring at a brisk rate as Gautam Gambhir too kept the scoreboard ticking along with ones and twos. The famed opening pair put on a solid 50 for the opening wicket and were looking good for more.

The last couple of overs before lunch cost England 20 runs as Gambhir too got into the act, hitting Monty Panesar for a six and a four over mid on. England's ploy of bringing on the spinners early didn't pay off as India took the opportunity to wipe off a fair portion of the lead, reaching 86/0 at lunch in just 21 overs.

The session after lunch witnessed a mighty collapse from the Indian side. The procession began straight from the first ball after Lunch as Virender Sehwag was bowled for 49 by Graeme Swann playing a lazy off drive. In form batsman Cheteshwar Pujara was the next to go for 8, courtesy a needless run out, where Gautam Gambhir looked for a tight single to Ian Bell to ease off the pressure. Pujara was found well short of his ground as Bell through the stumps down from mid-wicket.

Gautam Gambhir followed suit a couple of overs later as he finally nicked a wide ball from Steve Finn through to the keeper after making a painstaking 40, playing and missing several times. Master batsman Sachin Tendulkar didn't last long either as he too nicked Swann to slip having made just 5, the very next over.

At 107/4 Yuvraj Singh walked in and added 15 for the 5th wicket with a composed Virat Kohli before a good length ball from Jimmy Anderson kept low and rattled his stumps off the bottom edge. The Punjab batsman managed just 11.

England then ended India's hopes of survival as Anderson bowled a brisk outswinger that took the edge of the Indian captain Dhoni (7) through to second slip. At tea on day 4, England were on the brink of another famous win, having India on the mat at 149/6 with Kohli (19*) and Ashwin (16*) holding fort.

There was no respite for India after the tea break as Steven Finn got rid of Kohli playing a loose drive outside the off-stump with a well set-up outswinger having bowled a perfect inswinger the previous ball. In his next over, Finn trapped Zaheer Khan leg before for naught to signal the beginning of the end for India.

England's charge was momentarily halted by Ravichandran Ashwin, who found a capable partner in Ishant Sharma, who on the virtue of his guts alone should definitely be batting ahead of Zaheer. Sharma batted for over an hour, keeping out 53 balls and contributing 10 to inch India closer to 200. He was finally cleaned up by Monty Panesar, who was unfortunate to miss out on both batsmen earlier on.

Ashwin though continued to bat unperturbed, and brought up his half-century off 111 deliveries. He was also brilliant at farming the strike, and ensured that England would need to bat again.

England took the new ball at the end of the day in decaying light, but Ashwin held firm to see India through to 239-9 at the close of play.

England will no doubt wrap up the match early tomorrow, and with just 3 days to go before the final test of the series in Nagpur there is little time for India to regroup and come back in this series.

Mini Scorecard

India 1st innings 316 all out (105 overs, 3.03 rpo)
S Tendulkar 76(155) M Panesar 4/90
G Gambhir 60(124)  J Anderson 3/89

England 1st innings 523 all out (167.3 overs, 3.12rpo)
A Cook 190(377) P Ojha 4/142
J Trott 87(223) R Ashwin 3/183

India 2nd innings 239/9 (83 overs, 2.87 rpo)
V Sehwag 49(57) S Finn 3/37
R Ashwin 83* (151) J Anderson 2/38

File Photograph Copyright: BCCI