Series in the bag and a win on the cards for India! | cricket | Hindustan Times
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Series in the bag and a win on the cards for India!

England are 326/9 at stumps on the third day, needing 139 more runs to avoid follow-on, reports Rohit Mahajan.Key moments: Day 3 | Day 2

cricket Updated: Aug 12, 2007 17:51 IST
Rohit Mahajan

Down they went, lemming-like, the impossibility of matching India's 664 making the Englishmen go helter-skelter towards destruction near the end of an intense day's play, the battle of attrition slowly wearing down the hosts.

They had been doing quite well, actually — at 202 for four, with the mighty Kevin Pietersen batting on an unnatural 41 and the gritty Paul Collingwood fighting it out, England looked good.

Then, in a moment of utter madness, Pietersen lost it — their partnership had mounted to 78 and the ball had been thrown to Sachin Tendulkar. The first ball spun a mile and would probably have been collected to the right of first slip — if Pietersen had not had one of those unfathomable moments of sporting lunacy.

Going for an almighty heave at the departing ball, the iconic Pietersen edged the ball to Rahul Dravid at first slip. The captain went ballistic, yelling and laughing at the same time, for he knew that this was one who could hurt India most.

Tendulkar bowled another six overs after that, sending down better deliveries but Collingwood and Ian Bell put their heads down to fight it out, meeting fire with fire, putting up a partnership that raised hope in the capacity crowd, who had recourse to other, more basic means of raising their spirits. The beer counters were doing brisk business, and in the middle, the runs were coming in a similarly brisk manner.

Bell was quite fearless, for he had a reputation as a counter-puncher to protect, and his takeaway from the first four innings was miserable by his standard. He lobbed the ball over the field, drove and lofted and swept Anil Kumble, and the Indians seemed a little on the defensive.

In the 15 overs before the new ball was taken (in the 82nd), England scored 71 runs, with Bell demonstrating his abilities on a day one of the Englishmen just had to hit back at India. Then the new ball was taken and suddenly, the murderous index finger of umpire Ian Howell did the trick — this time against England, for a change.

Paul Collingwood was struck on his pads off the sixth ball of the 82nd over, S Sreesanth appealed and then implored for a decision in his favour, and Howell raised his finger. Collingwood could only close his eyes in dismay and let out a sigh — the ball seemed to be going down the legside.

Then Bell became the second man to deliberately tread the path to ruin — in the sixth over with the new ball, to a Zaheer delivery that was safely short and wide, Bell offered a weak jab — edged and caught. Ryan Sidebottom came out swinging and went back shuffling — trying to pull Zaheer off the last ball, he skied it back to the bowler.

Sreesanth was focused and looking dangerous, the ball was new and England were in trouble. Matt Prior completed his miserable third day when he edged the Kerala paceman to Tendulkar at slip, and England were looking down the barrel.

Things had begun differently in the morning though. Failing to control the swinging ball, failing to take the chances that came their way, the Indians were getting a bit edgy, trying perhaps too much. With the clouds obscuring and baring the sun with surprising regularity in the second session, the Englishmen were fighting a grim battle for survival. Vaughan was back in the pavilion, the twice-reprieved Cook was gone for 61, and India needed two wickets to expose the tail.

Ten minutes before lunch, in walked Pietersen -- there were fears for him, but it was his captain who perished, failing to read a googly and driving it back. And England's back was against the wall.

On a final note, despite the last wicket pair of Panesar and Tremlett hanging on, at stumps England would know they are not just looking at their first series loss at home since 2001, but also at a humiliating 2-0 scoreline.