Panesar spins India to their doom

Pietersen, Cook score record centuries as England dominate the third day.

Panesar's second ten-wicket haul in Tests gave England a huge advantage over India. (File Photo)

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England ran India ragged in the field on Sunday and stood on the brink of equalizing the series, after turning in commanding performances with the bat and ball at the Wankhede Stadium. Having attained an 86-run lead through record-equaling centuries from Kevin Pietersen and Alastair Cook, England decimated India’s second innings via Monty Panesar – inexplicably left out of the Ahmedabad Test – who took out five wickets, and completed ten for the match, in a terrifying spell of left-arm spin bowling in the last session.

India were heading to a hasty demise at close, having lost seven wickets in 33 overs for an inconsequential lead of 31. Gambhir was holding firm with an unbeaten half-century, with Harbhajan Singh for company. The two should know that it would take a target of at least 120 to challenge England in the fourth innings.

It was an eventful day of cricket, one that was thoroughly dominated by England. First, Pietersen and Cook flayed India with a record 206-run stand, and then Panesar rattled them with his multiple strikes. India’s only phase of success came when they skittled out five England wickets for just 31 runs after Pietersen’s exit. But the visitors came back strongly, and how!, in the last session.

Monty spells India’s doom

Panesar scythed through India’s second essay. Virender Sehwag was the first to go, a classic left-arm spinner’s dismissal that caught the edge and rested in gully’s hands. Swann got a huge wicket next. Cheteshwar Pujara had his first cheap score of the series when he played forward and bat-padded a catch to short leg, where Jonny Bairstow dove splendidly to complete the act.

A hush took over the stadium as Sachin Tendulkar walked out for, in all likelihood, his last Test innings on his home ground. He was made to look like a rank novice first by Swann, and then by Panesar, before the left-arm spinner ended his miserable stay. The maestro was trapped on a backfoot by a straighter one and out leg-before after scoring 8.

Kohli’s brainfreeze

Virat Kohli swatted a Swann fulltoss to mid-off, leaving India four down; and when Yuvraj looked ill at ease. His ten-ball stay ended when he gloved Panesar into his pads and the ball lobbed up to short leg. This would have been the ideal time for Dhoni to emulate his counterpart, but the India captain fell cheaply, edging Panesar to Trott at slip.

India were effectively 6/6 at that point. But another blow was to come. Ashwin was lured for the drive by Panesar. He obliged but ended up hitting to Samit Patel at cover, giving the left-armer his tenth wicket of the match. Gambhir remained unbeaten on 53, and on him and Harbhajan rests the onus of taking India to a lead in the region of a 100 when they resume on Monday morning.

KP's masterclass stunned India. (File Photo)Records tumble, Pietersen sizzles

Both Cook and Pietersen equalled the record for most Test centuries by an England batsman as they bossed India after resumption. They each completed their 22nd hundred, joining Walter Hammond, Colin Cowdrey and Geoffrey Boycott in an elite group. Their partnership of 206, brought about in just 53 overs, took the game away from India and was the highest third wicket stand at the venue, replacing an earlier effort by Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli.

Pietersen was untouchable in his 186, a domineering knock that stung India as much as Cook’s solidity had smothered them.  He bullied the bowlers over 233 balls, using his feet and the depth of the crease to make room to counter the spinners. And it wasn’t just countering that was going on. His reverse sweep off Harbhajan Singh to reach a century was imperious. The 150 came with a deposit over mid-wicket off Ojha.

Pietersen finally fell to the left-arm spinner, driving expansively only to nick to the wicketkeeper, and such was the impact of his dismissal that the rest of England caved in, losing five wickets for 31 runs in nine overs to the spinners.

The collapse

The collapse was triggered by an unnecessary run out. Matt Prior tried to steal  a single on the off side, was sent back by the non-striker, Stuart Broad – but not before Dhoni had retrieved the ball and returned it to the stumps, where an alert Virat Kohli stood at readiness. Harbhajan Singh chipped in with two tail-end wickets and Monty Panesar slogged R. Ashwin to deep midwicket, as the innings ended in a heap on 413 – the lead a healthy 86.

Cook had reached his century with an elegant drive against Harbhajan, leaning into the shot like a mast obeying the call of the wind. The knock placed Cook in another exclusive group: that of having scored a century in his first four Tests as captain. The England skipper nailed another record in the course of his knock, becoming highest ever run scorer at the age of 28 in Test cricket, pipping Tendulkar to second place.

The controversy

The England captain was out for 122, half an hour to lunch, caught by Dhoni off Ashwin. India opted for the second new ball promptly, and controversy resulted when Jonny Bairstow was judged caught off Ojha when his leading edge was taken by Gambhir at silly mid-off.

Gambhir showed excellent reflexes, but replays showed that the ball had struck the grill of his helmet before it was pouched – in which case a dead ball should have been signaled. Sources state that the England camp approached the match referee for a reversal of the decision over lunch. Since Bairstow had left the field of play, the decision could only be withdrawn if the rival captain voluntarily chose to do so. To nobody’s Dhoni reportedly did not as for a withdrawal.