Kolkata, Dec 5: Sachin Tendulkar was back in form with a fighting knock of 76 but that was not enough to stop England from taking the honours on the opening day of the third Test at Eden Gardens here on Wednesday.
At stumps, England bowlers were on top, having reduced India to 273/7 in 90 overs. Barring Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir (60), rest of the Indian batsmen failed against a good bowling from the visitors.
Paceman James Anderson (3/68) was excellent as he picked three wickets while Monty Panesar (2/74) had two. Graeme Swann (1/46) took one wicket while the other was a run out. Anderson's reverse swing with the old ball was key in England's dominance.
Indian batsmen, just like they did in Mumbai, disappointed. In conditions that were not so suitable for bowling like in second Test, England applied consistent pressure with disciplined bowling. Tendulkar was cautious at the start, taking 82 balls for his first 28 runs. However, once settled, he got the next 22 off 17 balls to reach his first half century in 11 innings. Overall, it was his 66th Test half ton.
When on two, he completed 34,000 international runs. Tendulkar hit 13 boundaries and took 155 balls for his 76. Almost half the runs of India's total were scored by Tendulkar and Gambhir. Tendulkar fell to Anderson thanks to a superb one-handed catch by wicketkeeper Matt Prior.
Anderson has now dismissed Tendulkar eight times in Tests, joining Sri Lankan Muttaiah Muralitharan as the bowlers who have got the Master Blaster out most times. Anderson has done it in 13 Tests while Muralitharan needed 19.
Yuvraj Singh was aggressive during his 32-run stay but fell to Swann. At close, captain MS Dhoni was batting on 22 and Zaheer Khan is yet to open his account.
After winning the toss and batting, India were expected to fare much better than this. It was a below par effort. Now, it is left to Dhoni to rally with the tail.
At Tea, India 172/4
A determined Tendulkar (46 batting) registered his highest score in 11 Test innings and his presence in the middle is key to India as the hosts have slid to 172/4 in 58 overs at tea.
Tendulkar, under pressure to come out of extended form slump, battled it out at the crease. He was cautious in his approach for most of the innings and later played few shots towards the closing stages of second session.
At the other end though, England dismissed Gautam Gambhir (60) and Virat Kohli (6). Monty Panesar had Gambhir caught at slip by Jonathan Trott while attempting a cut shot. James Anderson, in the middle of a good spell, removed Kohli, also caught by Graeme Swann.
Tendulkar is with Yuvraj Singh at the interval.
At lunch, India 90/2
Gambhir hit a half century in the first session but India lost Virender Sehwag and Cheteshwar Pujara. At lunch, hosts were 90/2 in 29 overs.
Sehwag (23) gave England an early Christmas gift by running himself out, attempting for a third run when his partner Gambhir was clear shouting a "no" from the bowler's end. Steven Finn's throw from the boundary to Matt Prior was enough to find Sehwag far away from the crease. Pujara (16) failed to keep out an arm-ball from Monty Panesar and the offstump was disturbed.
In perfect batting conditions, both Sehwag and Pujara missed out. Gambhir (50 batting) completed his 21st Test half century and Sachin Tendulkar (1) is with him at the break.
England will be happy to end the session with two wickets. With not much turn on offer and also very little for fast bowlers, the visitors have done well to dismiss two big batsmen.
If at all Tendulkar needed a good pitch to return to form, this is the one.
India captain MS Dhoni won the toss and elected to bat first against England in the third Test at the Eden Gardens here on Wednesday. Dhoni has now won all three tosses this series.
India made one change to their line-up from previous Test. Harbhajan Singh was replaced by Ishant Sharma. India had gone in with three spinners in Mumbai but this time it will be only two R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha.
Paceman Ishant is playing a Test after 10 months. His previous Test was against Australia in January this year in Adelaide.
Harbhajan will have to wait to win his 100th Test cap.
Dhoni is just three short of completing 200 catches in Tests as a wicketkeeper.
Opener Virender Sehwag is playing 100th Test for India. However, overall this is Test number 101 for him, having played one Test for ICC World XI.
The visitors made two changes. Stuart Broad and Jonny Bairstow were dropped and in came Steven Finn and Ian Bell.
With the Eden Gardens pitch grabbing all the attention before the Test, it will be interesting to see how it will play over the next five days. Curator Prabir Mukherjee said it will turn from the third day.
The four-match series stands at 1-1.
India: MS Dhoni (captain, wicketkeeper), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, R Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Pragyan Ojha, Ishant Sharma.
England: Alastair Cook (captain), Nick Compton, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Matt Prior (wicketkeeper), Samit Patel, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Monty Panesar, Steven Finn.
Umpires: Rod Tucker (Australia) and Kumar Dharmasena (Sri Lanka)
Match referee: Jeff Crowe (New Zealand)
Play starts at 9.00 AM
First Test: India won by 9 wickets (Ahmedabad)
Second Test: England won by 10 wickets (Mumbai)