Riding on left-arm-spinner Monty Paneswar’s second five-wicket haul, a spirited England pushed Team India into the jaws of an embarrasing defeat at stumps on Day three of the second Test at the Wankhede stadium here today.
Paneswar led the onslaught against the hosts after England folded up their innings for 413 with both Kevin Pietersen and skipper Alastair Cook striking brilliant centuries to gain a vital 86-run lead.
Pietersen (186) and Cook (122) notched up their 22nd Test centuries in a masterly exhibition of batsmanship on a turning track before reducing the hosts to a precarious 117 for seven at close on the third day. After conceding a 86-run lead, India’s top order batsmen surrendered rather tamely to the English spinners who exploited the conditions far better than their Indian counterparts who inexplicably lacked the sting. Gautam Gambhir (53) and Harbhajan Singh (1) were at the crease with India just 31 runs ahead on a day which saw as many as 15 wickets fall on a Wankhede pitch giving ample assistance to the spinners. The day, however, clearly belonged to Pietersen and Cook who tilted the balance in England’s favour with a record 206-run partnership for the third wicket, eclipsing the previous record of 144 between Mike Gatting and Allan Lamb in 1984-85.
Cook, who struck his second successive century, anchored the innings while Pietersen was the more aggressive partner as the pair frustrated the Indian spinners. Pietersen never allowed the spinners to settle down as he kept the score moving with a flurry of shots.
But the England innings collapsed after the dismissal of Pietersen, with the last six wickets falling for just 56 runs.
Left-arm-spinner Pragyan Ojha was the wrecker-in-chief with five for 143 while Harbhajan Singh and Ashwin chipped in with two wickets apiece.
India sliced through the England innings after Cook was dismissed.
The duo’s double century-stand assumed more significance after the last eight English wickets fell for 139 runs.
Ojha had figures of five for 143, his second fifer in as many Tests.
The tourists, who resumed on 178 for two overnight, were dismissed eight minutes before tea. The England skipper departed when he edged Ashwin to Dhoni who later caught Pietersen off Ojha in the second hour after lunch.
Cook’s departure before lunch triggered a collapse in which seven wickets fell in quick succession. Once the Cook-Pietersen partnership was broken, Ojha got into his wicket-taking act with a spell of three for 52 on either side of lunch during which he sent back Jonny Bairstow (9), Samit Patel (26) and Pietersen, who struck 21 fours and four sixes in his 233-ball knock in 317 minutes.
Ojha had accounted for Nick Compton and Jonathan Trott yesterday. But Pietersen was especially harsh on Ojha who foxed him twice at Ahmedabad.
Ashwin captured the wicket of Cook while Harbhajan Singh, the third spinner in the team, struck late in the session to send back Stuart Broad caught brilliantly at silly point by a diving Pujara and then trapped James Anderson in front.