India pushed England to the brink of follow on by reducing the visitors to 110 for seven at lunch on the third day of the first cricket Test here today.
Left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha picked up two wickets off successive balls while Ravichandran Ashwin and medium pacer Umesh Yadav shared the other two wickets to leave the tourists 411 runs short of the hosts’ massive first innings total of 521 for 8 declared.
Ojha, who took one wicket in England’s overnight 41 for 3, packed off a nervous-looking Kevin Pietersen (17) and a clueless Ian Bell (0) at the same score of 69 while Ashwin broke through the stubborn defense of rival skipper Alastair Cook (41 in 149 minutes) with a big off break 11 runs later.
Umesh Yadav, not given the ball till the 48th over, struck in his first over late in the second hour of play by trapping Samit Patel (10) as the batsman attempted to turn to leg. Umpire Aleem Dar, who did not uphold a very confident leg before appeal against the same batsman off Ashwin earlier, this time raised his finger.
At the break, Matt Prior, lucky to be dropped by Zaheer Khan in the deep off Ashwin on 4, was not out with 20 after a stay of 43 minutes in which he struck four boundaries along with Tim Bresnan (0 in 11 balls).
The visitors needed to score 212 runs to avoid the follow on with Vice-Captain Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann yet to come in to bat.
England had, by lunch, got past their lowest ever total of 102 made in India, in 1981 in Mumbai. For India, Ojha and Ashwin had three wickets each in their bag while conceding 30 and 44 runs respectively while Yadav had 1 for 6 in 3 overs after being brought on to bowl belatedly.
From the first over, England’s overnight batsmen Cook and Pietersen faced an all-spin attack with Ojha and Ashwin pressed in from either end by Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Ojha troubled Pietersen, who saw the first ball of the morning spin across the face of his bat, and tried to hit his way out of trouble by stepping out to the left arm spinner.
Pietersen was been recalled into the team for this series after being dropped despite scoring a hundred in his previous Test against South Africa after sending text messages against then Captain Andrew Strauss and some other team members to the rival camp.
He was almost run out by silly point fielder Gautam Gambhir in the first over from Ojha as he rushed out and the ball struck his boot, and continued in the same vein later too before paying the penalty against the left arm bowler.
Both Pietersen and Cook worked themselves to boundaries when Ojha erred in length, but the left armer also drew first blood in the morning after 47 minutes of play in his eighth over.
Further trouble was in store for England as off the next ball, a nervous-looking Ian Bell rushed out and skied a drive.
Sachin Tendulkar ran back and took a well-judged catch at mid off.
In the first hour, Ashwin did not trouble Cook though he kept the left-handed rival captain quiet before conceding his first run to Pietersen in his fifth over of the morning.
He gave way to Zaheer for a three-over spell after his fifth over.
Ashwin came back immediately after the drinks break and struck in his third over by turning a ball away from the left-handed Cook to take the bat’s edge when the visiting skipper lunged for a drive. Sehwag took a simple catch at slip.
Cook’s departure meant England had squandered away 3 wickets for the addition of 11 runs in 44 balls.
Ashwin should have got the wicket of Patel too in his next over when he rapped the right-hander on his pads with a fuller length ball right in front but Umpire Aleem Dar denied the appeal much to the Indians’ dismay. Patel was on 4.
Ashwin changed his ends by replacing Ojha after the latter’s fine spell of 13-5-26-2.
The off spinner was unlucky later too when Zaheer dropped a straight-forward catch at deep mid wicket when Prior (4) pulled him and the fielder also conceded a four.