Captain Alastair Cook led a remarkable England fightback with a heroic unbeaten 168 as the defiant visitors wiped out India’s mammoth first innings lead with a gritty batting display to raise hopes of saving the first cricket Test here today.
The 27-year-old Cook displayed immense concentration and skill to not only notch up his 21st Test century under pressure but also keep his team in the game as he steered England to 340 for five at close on the penultimate day which saw the Sardar Patel track ease out quite a bit.
Cook batted the whole day with exemplary patience, determination and composure to remain unconquered.
Cook, who has faced 341 balls and struck 20 fours, was given splendid support by Prior, who was not out on 84 that came off 190 balls and contained 10 fours.
The England captain found an able ally in Matt Prior (84) as the duo put on an unfinished 141-run partnership to leave the Indians frustrated.
The spinners, who were expected to do the bulk of the damage, found it difficult to get the wickets.
England, who conceded a mammoth 330-run first innings lead and were asked to follow-on, have now taken a lead of 10 runs, setting the stage for an interesting fifth day’s play tomorrow with all three results possible.
India will look to claim the remaining five wickets as quickly as possible tomorrow and push for a 1-0 lead in the four-match series.
England, on the other hand, will try to bat as much as possible and may even put pressure on India by taking a substantial lead on a tricky fifth day track.
Resuming at the overnight score of 111 for no loss, England lost the wickets of Nick Compton (37), Jonathan Trott (17), Kevin Pietersen (2), Ian Bell (22) and Samit Patel (0) but it was Cook who stood like a rock to hold the English innings together showing superb endurance.
After lunch break, two more English wickets fell with pacer Umesh Yadav picking up both the wickets in successive balls though he failed to take a hat-trick at Sardar Patel Stadium here.
Yadav struck two body blows by making the 76-over-old ball reverse swing to trap Ian Bell and Samit Patel leg before wicket off the fifth and sixth balls of his first over of a new spell to leave the tourists gasping at 199 for 5 in the first hour of play of the post-lunch session.
Left arm spinner Pragyan Ojha had done a similar damage in the first session by dismissing Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen cheaply within a space of seven balls spread over two overs to push England on to the back foot after openers Cook and Nick Compton (37) had put on a stand of 123 runs.
After the fall of two wickets however, Cook continued to stand tall with his excellent technique and calm demeanour against the spinning ball. He cracked his third century against India and the 21st in his 84th game.
Prior also ably supported his captain at the other end and made sure England fightback.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni took the second new ball in the 83rd over when England were 219 for five just before the end of the first hour in which the visitors added 42 runs in 14 over for the loss Bell and Patel.
Earlier, in the first session some tight bowling by Zaheer Khan and Ojha kept them down to 71 runs from 31 overs for the loss of Compton, Trott (17) and Pietersen (2), with the opener falling to Zaheer and the last two to Ojha.
Ojha, who picked up 5 for 45 to help skittle out England for a paltry 191 in the first innings, had figures of two for 54 at lunch.