NAGPUR, Dec 14: India’s batting woes continued to haunt them with the top-order batsmen, including Sachin Tendulkar, succumbing tamely yet again as England snapped up four quick wickets to gain firm control of the crucial fourth and final Test here on Friday.
After posting 330 in the first innings, the visitors exploited the slow and uneven bounce of the track to leave India gasping at a precarious 87-4 at close on an eventful second day which saw nine wickets fall at the VCA Stadium in Jamtha.
Paceman James Anderson did the bulk of the damage with three for 24 while Graeme Swann chipped in with the wicket of Cheteshwar Pujara as the Indian batsmen put up another pathetic display.
Virat Kohli (11) and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (8) were at the crease when stumps were drawn for the day, with the hosts still trailing by 243 runs.
The failure of India’s famed batsmen again let the team down badly as Virender Sehwag (0), Gautam Gambhir (37), Pujara (26) and Tendulkar (2) could not stay for long. Tendulkar was bowled by Anderson who has now dismissed him nine times, the highest by any bowler.
With three days left, England have put themselves on course for their first series win on Indian soil in 28 years.
England struck in the very first over when Anderson broke through the tentative defense of Sehwag with an in-swinger before the hosts adjourned for tea at a nervous 32-1. The opener, who made a two-ball duck, was completely beaten for pace and bowled, his middle stump ripped out of the ground.
Gambhir and Pujara looked well in control of the proceedings when they added 58 before the sudden slump when India lost both of them and Tendulkar for just 12 runs and in nine overs.
Pujara could be termed unlucky to have been declared out by umpire Rod Tucker as the ball seemed to have missed the glove, hit his forearm and bounced off his pad for Ian Bell to take a superb, diving one-handed catch at forward short leg.
Tendulkar, whose career is on the line after a string of poor scores, appeared ill at ease and was beaten twice by the sudden turn extracted by his nemesis in the series — left arm spinner Monty Panesar — but it was his other career nemesis — Anderson — who got him again.
Brought back into the attack after the drinks break, Anderson made two balls go away and then brought one back to bowl Tendulkar, who was beaten for pace and inward movement and inside edged the ball that also kept a bit low which crashed into his middle and leg stumps.
Gambhir attempted an ill-advised drive away from the body to offer a catch to wicket-keeper Prior.
Earlier, resuming at the overnight tally of 199-5, England did well to stretch their first innings total to 330 with debutant Joe Root (73), Matt Prior (57) and Swann (56) being the notable contributors.
Leg-spinner Piyush Chawla was the pick of the Indian bowlers with a career-best haul of 4-69 while paceman Ishant Sharma took 3-49.
Chawla hastened the end of the England first innings after lunch by grabbing the visitors’ last three wickets in only 25 balls. He snapped up the wickets of Root, Swann and Anderson in a superb post-lunch spell of 3-17.—Agencies
Scoreboard ENGLAND (1st Innings, overnight 199-5): A.N. Cook lbw b Sharma 1 N.R.D. Compton c Dhoni b Sharma 3 I.J.L. Trott b Jadeja 44 K.P. Pietersen c Ojha b Jadeja 73 I.R. Bell c Kohli b Chawla 1 J.E. Root c and b Chawla 73 M.J. Prior b Ashwin 57 T.T. Bresnan lbw b Sharma 0 G.P. Swann lbw b Chawla 56 J.M. Anderson c Pujara b Chawla 4 M.S. Panesar not out 1 EXTRAS (B-5, LB-12) 17 TOTAL (all out, 145.5 overs) 330 FALL OF WKTS: 1-3, 2-16, 3-102, 4-119, 5-139, 6-242, 7-242, 8-302, 9-325. BOWLING: Sharma 19-7-32-2; Ojha 27-9-50-0; Jadeja 25-13-34-2; Chawla 13-1-39-1; Ashwin 13-2-32-0. INDIA (1st Innings): G. Gambhir c Prior b Anderson 37 V. Sehwag b Anderson 0 C.A. Pujara c Bell b Swann 26 S.R. Tendulkar b Anderson 2 V. Kohli not out 11 M.S. Dhoni not out 8 EXTRAS (B-1, LB-2) 3 TOTAL (for four wkts, 41 overs) 87 FALL OF WKTS: 1-1, 2-59, 3-64, 4-71. TO BAT: R.A. Jadeja, R. Ashwin, P.P. Chawla, I. Sharma, P.P. Ojha. BOWLING (to-date): Anderson 9-2-24-3; Bresnan 10-1-25-0; Panesar 14-4-24-0; Swann 7-3-9-1; Trott 1-0-2-0.