Nottingham, July 11: Indian seamers led by Ishant Sharma pegged England back with some incisive seam and swing bowling reducing the hosts to 352 for nine at stumps to gain upperhand on the third day of the first cricket Test, here today.
England currently are 105 runs behind India's first innings score of 457 with two days of play remaining. At stumps, Joe Root (78 batting) is battling it out in company of last man Jimmy Anderson (23 batting) having added 54 runs for the unbroken stand.
England were in a comfortable position at 131 for one with the young duo of Gary Ballance (71) and Sam Robson (59) helping themselves to well-made half-centuries but things took a different turn in the post-lunch session, when they lost six wickets for 74 runs.
While it was Ishant (3/109), who rocked the top-order with three quick dismissal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar's (4/61) controlled swing bowling decimated the lower-middle order although a couple of debatable decisions went in home team's favour.
The third pacer of the troika, Mohammed Shami (2/98) added a scalp to his yesterday's wicket of Alastair Cook. England however redeemed themselves in the final session from a precarious 205 for seven mainly due to Root's (78 batting) responsible effort with the tailenders that got them 147 runs in the final session with the loss of two wickets.
Apart from his stand with Anderson, Root also shared a 78-run eighth wicket partnership with all-rounder Stuart Broad who smashed 47 off 42 balls with nine fours.
While England scored 309 runs in the 89 overs of play possible on the day, credit must be given to the Indian seamers for the manner they made the most on a lifeless track where the ball didn't do much for the better part.
The spell by Ishant in the post-lunch session was one of the best he had bowled in recent times where he was nippy as well as getting movement off the pitch on both sides.
While Robson may feel hard done as there was an inside edge to the incoming delivery, the ones he bowled to get left-hander Ballance and seasoned Ian Bell (25) reminded one and all of his time in Australia during the 2007-08 series.
Tea: England 205/7
Ishant bowled an incisive spell in the post-lunch session as India gained upperhand effecting a middle-order collapse to reduce hosts England to 205 for seven at tea.
Comfortably placed at 131 for one during lunch, England lost six wickets for addition of 74 runs in the post-lunch session including a couple of debatable decisions as Ishant (3/64) along with Mohammed Shami (2/58) and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (2/35) ripped through the middle-order.
At the tea-break, the hosts were still trailing by 252 runs in the first innings, needing 53 more to avoid the follow-on, with ample time remaining in the match for the visitors to push for victory.
Joe Root (13 batting)and Stuart Broad (1 batting) were at the crease. The post-lunch session started with Ishant striking in the very second over after lunch. However opener Sam Robson, who scored his maiden Test half-century, was unlucky to be given out leg before by Australian umpire Bruce Oxenford as there was clearly an inside edge.
It brought in-form Ian Bell to the crease and he started with a flurry of boundaries as the English 150 runs came up in the 55th over, with the out-of-shape ball also changed before that over.
Just afterwards though, Ishant made it a double strike as he trapped Gary Ballance leg before as well, a clean dismissal this time around with the ball jagging back in and befuddling the batsman. He scored 71 runs after facing 167 balls, inclusive of 9 fours.
That's when the slide began for England as five overs later Bell (25 runs, 37 balls, 6 fours) was caught behind, playing an unintelligent shot to a short ball from Sharma who snapped up his third wicket.
Moeen Ali (14 runs, 30 balls, 3 fours) then added 25 runs for the fifth wicket with Root, but he too misjudged another short delivery, this time from Shami as the ball looped up off his gloves and was caught in the slips.
Lunch: England 131/1
England youngsters Gary Ballance and Sam Robson struck patient half-centuries as the home team reached 131 for one at lunch.
With the inexperienced Indian bowling failing to make inroads on a cloudy third morning, left-hander Ballance remained unbeaten on 59 runs off 144 balls with seven fours and opener Robson also batting on an identical individual score facing 138 balls, hitting eight fours in the process.
The hosts currently trail India by 326 runs in the first innings but it looks to be hard work on a placid track that is not providing any help for the bowlers.
Skipper MS Dhoni deployed all his five primary bowlers in the morning session, but none could make a lasting impression on the batsmen, who looked to be playing for time without much thought on scoring quickly, as 88 runs came in 31 overs in the first session of play.
Mohammad Shami (1-41) and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (0-17) got things underway for India under some nice cloud cover after two days of bright sunshine. They were perhaps hoping that this would help them in some way on an uncharacteristic flat track.
Shami extracted a little more bounce on account of his extra pace and Kumar stuck to bowling wicket-to-wicket, unable to use the relatively seam friendly conditions.
It was Ishant Sharma (0-34) who looked to trouble the batsmen most in this session of play. He looked in nice rhythm, looking a completely different bowler to the one who struggled through the two practice games in Leicester and Derbyshire.
He beat the bat on a few occasions, getting a couple edges as well, but none that could carry along to any fielders. Dhoni resorted to Ravindra Jadeja (0-15) after only 15 overs had been bowled in the morning, in order to get some help from the almost sub-continental pitch.
But even the spinner couldn't dent the growing confidence of the two batsmen as they brought up the 100-run mark in the 40th over of the innings.