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England turn from harmless to hopeful
11:23am Saturday 17th November 2012 in International
England rediscovered their fight but still face a mountainous task to salvage a first-Test stalemate after collapsing to Indian spin on day three and having to follow on 330 runs behind.
If their position was no longer hopeless by stumps, thanks to an overdue stand of substance between openers Alastair Cook and Nick Compton at their second attempt, it was still hard to argue with a consensus that they will probably lose an unequal struggle at some point over the next two days.
Pragyan Ojha (five for 45) and Ravichandran Ashwin (three for 80) bowled England out for 191, yet neither of the Indian spinners could make any inroads in 28 more overs between them when the tourists tried again and succeeded to the tune of 111 for none.
Only Cook's lbw scare, sweeping at Ojha on 41, brought significant alarm on his way to an unbeaten 74 which restated his commitment to leading from the front as new Test captain.
In England's first innings, conversely, a wicket was forever imminent as Ojha and Ashwin made a nonsense of Graeme Swann's manful attempts to chip through India on what had appeared a lifeless surface on the first two days of this series.
Suddenly, the Sardar Patel Stadium was a snakepit as - in reply to 521 for eight declared - England lost four wickets for 69 runs this morning and then, despite Matt Prior's best efforts, their last three by teatime.
Prior responded to a critical situation with determination, interspersed with his instinct for counter-attacking strokeplay, but could not turn the tide.
England had endured successive wicketless mornings while Virender Sehwag and then double-centurion Cheteshwar Pujara piled on the runs.
They never looked likely to continue the sequence with bats in their hands.
Kevin Pietersen's comeback innings following his successful 'reintegration' was fretful throughout, rarely in his crease as he sought to stop Ojha dictating events.
The result appeared reckless rather than effective - from the outset.
He could easily have been out twice before adding to his overnight six, up the wicket in the first over and having to dive back as the ball bounced off his pad to silly-point, and missing another from out of his ground which thankfully also beat Mahendra Singh Dhoni down the leg-side.
A brief illusion of permanence followed until Ojha knocked out middle-stump as Pietersen played inside a delivery which turned sharply from wide on the crease round the wicket.
England's collective solution to last winter's failings against spin, broadly, has been to ditch the sweep and play much less from the crease.
Ian Bell has taken the 'remedy' to extremes, however, and paid the price instantly when he was up the wicket to Ojha and went through with an attempted lofted drive only to depart embarrassingly for a golden duck - caught at deep mid-off.
Cook crossed and survived the hat-trick ball.
But soon afterwards Ashwin lured him into a drive and had him edging some spin low to slip, where Sehwag took a neat catch.
Prior was dropped on three after clubbing a full-toss from Ashwin to Zaheer Khan on the square-leg boundary.
Samit Patel had no such luck. He got past the initial spin threat but was then lbw to one perhaps sliding towards leg when India finally introduced frontline seamer Umesh Yadav.
Prior and Tim Bresnan closed out the session, and began the next with promise in a stand of 47.
But Bresnan, understandably playing low in defence, was undone by rare extra bounce as Ojha picked up his fourth wicket - caught at gully.
Stuart Broad announced himself by hitting Ojha over midwicket for four first ball; then when Ashwin returned, he took 13 of the 14 runs off his first over back, including a six over long-on from the crease.
But England's first-innings resistance was short-lived, Broad lbw to one from Zaheer that again might have beaten leg-stump, and then Prior last out missing an inside-out drive at Ojha.
It seemed then that the tourists were on the fast track to defeat, until Cook and Compton revived hope that they could yet head for Mumbai next week 0-0 with three to play.
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