Kolkata, Dec 8: England are poised to win the third Test against India and take a 2-1 lead in the four-match series at the Eden Gardens after the hosts batting crumbled in second innings. Thanks to R Ashwin's resolute 83 not out, India pushed the match into fifth and final day with just 32 runs ahead. India ended the day at a pathetic 239/9 in 83 overs.
It was a shameful batting performance by India on Saturday. Barring Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Ashwin, the rest came a cropper. Playing the second innings with 207 behind, they were tumbling towards an innings defeat when Ashwin saved them from that ignominy.
From 159/8, Ashwin, Ishant Sharma and Pragyan Ojha (3 not out) have been instrumental in delaying the inevitable. Ashwin, batting at number 8, faced 151 balls and hit 13 fours. This is his second highest Test score and his third half century.
The way Ashwin batted it showed there were no demons in the pitch. Ashwin was the top scorer in India's second innings. On 22, Ashwin had a let off when Matt Prior muffed up a stumping chance off Monty Panesar.
Ashwin, during the course of his innings today, completed 500 Test runs. The offspinner has 58 wickets. He joined a select club of all-rounders with 500 runs and 50 scalps.
Ashwin and Ishant Sharma batted together for 18 overs for 38-run ninth wicket partnership. If not for this alliance, India would have been rolled over under 200.
At Tea, India 145/6
From 86/0 at lunch, India collapsed to 145/6 by tea as England were firmly placed to take a 2-1 lead in the series on the fourth day of third Test.
India's slide started with the first ball after lunch when Graeme Swann had Virender Sehwag bowled for 49. Cheteshwar Pujara followed him via a run out, Gautam Gambhir involving himself in a run out for the second time in the match.
Gambhir left the scene soon, edging one to wicketkeeper Matt Prior of Steven Finn. At that stage India were 103/3. Sachin Tendulkar (5) arrived to a huge reception but after one boundary, was caught at slip by Jonathan Trott off Swann.
Yuvraj Singh was the next to go, bowled by James Anderson. India's misery increased as captain MS Dhoni was out for a duck. India were reeling at 122/6. Finn and Anderson were outstanding with the ball. The two fast bowlers combined to take five wickets with Anderson having three.
Virat Kohli and R Ashwin have so far been together for 23 runs. An uphill battle beckons for them in the final session of play.
At lunch, India 86/0
Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir made a strong start to India second innings as they went to lunch at 86/0 in 21 overs, trailing by 121 more on the fourth day of third Test against England.
Sehwag and Gambhir played attacking shots to keep England bowlers at bay. Sehwag is on 49 off 56 balls with seven boundaries. Gambhir, with three fours and a six has 33 from 70 deliveries.
Both Sehwag and Gambhir had a reprieve each. Sehwag, on 7, was dropped at slip by Graeme Swann while Ian Bell failed to hold onto to a sharp chance at shortleg from the left-hander.
Earlier, India made a great start to day four by dismissing England for 523 in 167.3 overs. India took just 4.3 overs this morning to take four wickets. England have a 207-run lead. England had commenced the day at 509/6.
Pragyan Ojha struck in the second ball of the day by dismissing Graeme Swann. Zaheer Khan, in the next over, removed the other overnight batsman Matt Prior. Ojha finished with four wickets.
R Ashwin, who replaced Ojha, took two in two balls, getting James Anderson and Monty Panesar. Panesar was unlucky to be given out LBW by Kumar Dharmasena, when he clearly hit the ball with his bat. Ashwin had three wickets in the innings. It was a fine effort by the bowlers and it is upto the batsmen to wipe off the deficit.
MS Dhoni, who took a catch off Zaheer to send back Prior, completed 200 Test catches. He is the first Indian wicketkeeper to reach this milestone.
Start of day update
England, with 193 runs ahead and four wickets remaining, will look to extend their advantage against India.
England, aided by Alastair Cook's 190, finished day three on 509/6. Matt Prior and Graeme Swann are at the crease and will be hoping for quick runs in the morning session.
Also on Friday, Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott hit half centuries.
With pitch already showing variable bounce, India have a tough road ahead to save this Test.
The four-match series stands at 1-1.