Ahmedabad, Nov 18: Captain Alastair Cook's masterclass innings of undefeated 168 not only defied Indian bowling attack but also gave England the lead and pushed the match into fifth and final day. At stumps, England were 340/5 in 128 overs, a lead of 10 runs. An interesting last day beckons.
Cook has batted for 501 minutes and faced 341 balls while Prior faced 190 balls and they both have so far associated for 141 runs for the sixth wicket in 51 overs.
The left-handed Cook has been at the crease for four sessions including an entire day today. He began his innings last evening after tea when England were asked to follow-on. He started today at 74.
India could not pick a wicket in the entire two hours of play in final session. R Ashwin bowled 41 overs for 104 runs and has nothing to show in wickets column. Pragyan Ojha had 2/102 in 44 overs while Umesh Yadav had two while Zaheer Khan had one success.
Starting the fourth day, Sunday, with 219 in deficit, India were in a strong position to seal off a win. But Cook stood in their way with a marathon knock. Wicketkeeper Matt Prior proved the perfect foil for the skipper and together they wiped off the arrears and took the team in front.
With still a day remaining, England have some work to do before thinking of saving the Test or hoping for a slim chance of winning. As long as Cook stays at the square, England have hope.
Also, for India, they will not have Gautam Gambhir to open the innings. The left-hander has left the Test, for Delhi as his grandmother has passed away.
Tea report: England 264/5
Cook and Prior thwarted Indian bowlers with a half-century partnership between lunch and tea as England came within 66 runs of making India bat again in the first Test on fourth day. At tea, England were 264/5 in 100 overs in second innings after following on with Cook on 138 and Prior on 38 in the middle.
In the two hours of play after lunch, India had two successes through Umesh Yadav. The paceman dismissed Ian Bell and Samit Patel off consecutive balls. Both were trapped LBW but Samit was unlucky to be given out by umpire Tony Hill as the right-hander had had an inside edge onto his pad.
India took the second new ball after 82.2 overs with England on 219/5 but were not able to separate Cook and Prior. Captain Cook has been excellent in his innings so far. He has so far faced 267 balls while Prior has batted for 96 balls.
Cook has now batted for three sessions (382 minutes). Unless India strike early in the final session, this match could be headed into the fifth and final day tomorrow.
Lunch Report: England 182/3
Cook brought up his 21st Test century but Indians held the advantage in the first session of fourth day here on Sunday. At lunch, England were 182/3 in 69 overs after following on. They now trail by 148 runs. Cook (109) and Ian Bell (11) are at the crease.
Cook now has the record for a Test captain with three hundreds in his first three Tests as skipper. The left-hander continued his good work from Saturday while Indians struck three blows at the other end.
Amid Cook's celebration, England lost Nick Compton, Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen. Pragyan Ojha had two while Zaheer Khan had one.
For the second time in the match, Ojha dismissed Pietersen (2) bowled. If it was a straight ball which Pietersen missed from Ojha on Saturday, today, the right-hander attempted for a sweep and was bowled round his legs.
Trott played well for a brief period for 17 but nicked a good delivery from Ojha to MS Dhoni. Zaheer got India's first breakthrough by trapping Compton (37) LBW.
Playing his 84th Test, Cook is now second in all-time highest century makers for England. The record for most hundreds is 22 held by Geoffrey Boycott, Wally Hammond and Colin Cowdrey.
Cook also became the first English player to score five tons in the subcontinent. He went past Ken Barrington's four. Nagpur (104 not out Vs India), Galle (118 Vs Sri Lanka), Dhaka (109 not out Vs Bangladesh) and Chittagong (173 Vs Bangladesh) are the other venues where Cook got centuries in subcontinent.
Earlier, India began their hunt for wickets on the fourth day as play began here at Sardar Patel Stadium on Sunday. England started the day on 111/0, still 219 in arrears after following on on Saturday.
England captain Alastair Cook and Nick Compton are at the crease. They played well last evening to win the final session of play where Indians were not able to pick a wicket.
India declared at 521/8 in first innings and bowled England out for 191 with Pragyan Ojha taking five wickets. India enforced the follow-on.