Agencies, Kolkata India were on the verge their second consecutive defeats on home soil at the hands of England, who were within a striking distance from an astounding victory in the Third Test at the Eden Gardens. England looked certain to wrap up the match on the penultimate day today, but a defiant unbeaten knock of 83 from R Ashwin delayed the inevitable by a day. Riding on Ashwin’s grit and determination, India ended the day on 239/9 and also staved off the ignominy of an innings defeat by taking a lead of 32 runs.
The home team had scored 316 in their first knock as compared to England’s 523. Spinning all-rounder Ashwin hand an obdurate partner in form of Ishant Sharma, who lasted 53-ball, before becoming a victim of a Monty Panessar’s beauty. The duo forged a vital 38 runs stand for the eight wicket that helped India minimize the deficit of 207 runs to a large extend. Ashwin’s effort was greeted with full-throttle cheer from around 35-000 spectators, who until now were treated with some lack-luster show from their revered batting heroes. The Chennai lad, who is 13-run short of his highly-deserved second Test ton, brought the the Eden crowd on its toes towards the fag-end of the day with 13 delicately timed boundaries in his still continuing 151-ball essay. Pragyan Ojha was giving Ashwing a good company when the stumps were drawn for the day.
A humiliating defeat became imminent during the second session of day’s play where wickets fell in clusters and from being 86/0 at one stage were tottering at 145/6. The hosts, however, started the day on bright note, wrapping up the English tail within thirty minutes of day’s play. Gautam Gambhir and Virendra Sehwag further boosted the home team’s hope of leading a valiant fightback. Graeme Swam triggered a dramatic collapse of Indian batting when he cleaned up dangerous looking Sehwag (49) on the first ball after lunch. The rest followed the Delhi dasher in procession and fell like a pack of cards. Young Cheeteshwar Pujara became victim of a mindless out.
The saurashtra batsman, responding to Gambhir’s call ran for a single and found himself short of the crease, despite putting a full length dive. While Gambhir (40), Sachin Tendulkar(5), Mahindra Singh Dhoni(0) and Virat Kohli(20) perished in near-identical fashion, fishing the ball outside the off stump. England bowlers continued their over Indian Batsmen, picking up eight-wickets in less than three sessions. Steven Finn, was making a comeback in this match after nursing a career-threatening thigh injury, announced his arrival to form with a figure of three for 37. His pace partner James Anderson to fin his rhythm, claiming two wickets by bowling virtually unplayable deliveries. In the Morning session, India took and 4.3 overs to clean up remaining four English wickets and restricted England to 523.