Calcutta, day three: England 509-6

Five hundred and nine for six is an excellent score in any scenario. And England are in a commanding position in the Test, leading by 193 with four first innings wickets in hand. But oddly England actually could have been in an even better position and might be a bit disappointed that they aren’t. The scorecard is actually a bit of an odd one. There is only one poor score, that of Ian Bell, but there is also only one century and England actually lost five wickets for 115 runs in thirty overs on either side of tea. With England playing five number elevens in this Test it actually did feel like a very important partnership at the end of the day between Matt Prior and Graeme Swann.

I said yesterday that India needed to pick up their attitude in the field otherwise the match would get completely out of hand and to their credit they did do that. They bowled threatening spells and kept the batsmen cautious for long periods in much the same way England did on the first day. The difference was that England had runs already on the board and two of the most patient batsmen in the world at the crease so the breakthrough did not come until halfway through the afternoon session. But India’s bowling had the effect that when Trott did fall, getting forward to a good ball from Ojha that spun away and took the edge, England had only put on 122 in the day instead of the 150+ they likely had in mind. India never ran through England, but after that the same combination of testing deliveries and batsman error that worked so well for England resulted in another collapse. India’s fielding was never above average, but it finally reverted back to shambolic with a bit under an hour remaining and Prior and Swann were free to add a quickfire 56 to crush India’s hopes of keeping the deficit under two hundred. The fact that India could not keep the intensity up for an entire day is still problematic for them, though after two days in the field it is understandable.

The biggest event of the day was the run out of Alastair Cook. This was what finally gave India some momentum as Cook was looking well set for a double hundred and then some. But he was run out in a bizarre way when he was backing up and leapt to avoid a sharp throw from Virat Kohli which hit the stumps. Although Cook was taking evasive action, the fact that he had not left his ground to do so meant that he was still out. Agonisingly for Cook he had come very close to grounding his bat before pulling away and it was this which cost him. If he had simply let the ball hit him he would no doubt have had two hundred and more to his name, but it looked like an instinct for self preservation took over and cost him. It is worth remembering, however, that he had been dropped already on 17 and then again in the morning when Ishant Sharma put down a very simple chance. It was an unlucky way for Cook to get out, but he had already had plenty of luck.

England would have been hoping to get the lead past two hundred by stumps tonight and ideally be in a position to get it to three hundred around lunchtime tomorrow. They didn’t quite manage the first part (and only came close because Swann and Prior scored so quickly before stumps) and I don’t think another hundred is on the cards either. England have four wickets in hand, but the next three batsmen are Jimmy Anderson, Steven Finn and Monty Panesar. Swann has done well to get to 21* and if he can get a few more with Prior England could still get close to six hundred, but I don’t see the last three surviving all the way to lunch. My guess is that England will be bowled out with a lead between 225 and 260. It will certainly be a very good lead though and India will probably have to bat well into the last day to save the Test regardless of how many England get tomorrow morning. That does not look like it will be easy with the pitch starting to take quite a lot of turn and if England bowl with the same patient but threatening approach tomorrow I think India will struggle keep enough wickets in hand for the last day.

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