Chelmsford: Harbhajan Singh and Virender Sehwag warmed up for next week's third Test against England with impressive individual performances on Friday as Essex's batsmen and bowlers both suffered.
Off spinner Harbhajan took seven for 83 as Essex was bowled out for 279 in reply to India's 516. And when the tourists chose not to enforce the follow-on, Sehwag made 142 out of India's 231 for two at stumps. That means India will start the fourth and final day on Saturday with a lead of 468, Sanjay Bangar set to resume on 73 not out. Essex's hopes of getting anywhere near India's imposing total rested on the shoulders of Zimbabwe international Andy Flower.
He started the day on 45 but added just 14 more run before he was dismissed when Harbhajan took the outside edge and India captain Saurav Ganguly held the slip catch. Harbhajan then proceeded to work his way steadily through the Essex card before last man Joe Grant was bowled by part-time spinner Sehwag for an aggressive 30. After Ganguly decided to bat he gave wicket-keeper Parthiv Patel a chance to spend some time at the crease by promoting him to opener.
But the 17-year-old managed just one before he fell to veteran ex-England left-arm seamer Mark Ilott. However, that was the last success Essex's bowlers enjoyed for some time. Sehwag scored in typically rapid fashion, his century coming from a mere 110 balls including five sixes. He eventually fell when he was caught and bowled by Rav Bopara, having put on 209 with Bangar. There was no need for any heroics at the other end and Bangar scored more sedately, his runs coming from 171 balls including nine fours.
India, which trails England 1-0 after two matches of the four Test campaign, must win at Headingley next week if it is to keep alive hopes of winning its first Test series outside the sub-continent in 16 years.