India v England first test: England fight back but face uphill struggle

England show fighting spirit but still face uphill struggle after spin assault

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UPDATED:

11:37 GMT, 17 November 2012

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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.

Going good: Nick Compton showed a good understanding with Alistair Cook

Going good: Nick Compton showed a good understanding with Alistair Cook

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.

Solid: England captain Cook (left) oversaw a good fightback

Solid: England captain Cook (left) oversaw a good fightback

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.