India’s grip on their Test crown loosened further on the first day of the third Test against England, as the hosts continued where they left off at Trent Bridge with another dominant display.
It was hoped that the nine-day break midway through the series might help India to change its course, but the tourists continued to look second rate against an England side who refuse to ease up.
Aside from a swashbuckling 77 from MS Dhoni which allowed India to double their score over the course of their last three wickets, the opening day belonged entirely to England as they bowled India out for 224 before romping to 84 without loss.
That leaves a deficit of just 140 runs going into day two with Andrew Strauss (52) and Alastair Cook (27) still at the crease and India’s bowlers looking rather toothless.
India had hoped to bounce back from their defeats at Lord’s and Trent Bridge with a strong opening session at Edgbaston, but were put in to bat on an overcast Wednesday morning in Birmingham.
The tourists welcomed the return of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, but India’s preferred opening pair were parted after just eight runs when Sehwag edged his first ball of the series through to the keeper and was given out on review.
Gambhir (38) helped India recover from that early setback by putting on a 51-run partnership with Rahul Dravid, but just when they were beginning to look comfortable Bresnan struck his first blow, forcing the left-hander to play on from a good delivery just outside the off stump.
Sachin Tendulkar arrived for a fifth crack at his 100th international hundred, but didn’t last long as Broad found a thick edge which was pouched by James Anderson at third slip, the Little Master probably guilty of hopeful prodding.
VVS Laxman started briskly with a lucky inside edge for four and a ride down to the third man boundary, but was the only man left standing at the end of the session as Dravid’s dismissal signalled the lunch break.
Dravid (22) has been in sensational form this series, so it was no surprise that it took a brilliant delivery to prise him from the crease, with Bresnan finding just a hint of movement off the pitch to knock over the right-hander’s off stump and leave India in disarray.
From 75 for four India quickly slipped to 111 for seven after lunch, James Anderson making the initial breakthrough when he bowled Suresh Raina with a straight one from around the wicket.
If that dismissal was a disappointing one for Indian fans to watch, it got worse when Laxman (30) pulled down the throat of fine leg for the third time in as many Tests.
Broad made light work of Amit Mishra to keep England rolling, but the home side were held back by a counter-attack from Dhoni and Praveen Kumar which saw India add 84 runs in as many deliveries.
Dhoni’s knock included three sixes and 10 fours as he took the attack to England and gave their bowlers something to think about, but he lost his partner in crime shortly before tea when a Bresnan bouncer was edged through to Matt Prior. Although it was initially given not out, a second sharp review from Strauss saw the decision overturned.
After being hit for six over fine leg by Dhoni, Broad eventually claimed the wicket of India’s captain to ensure that he and Bresnan finished with four wickets apiece.
The hosts drafted Ravi Bopara into their XI for the injured Jonathan Trott, while Amit Mishra replaced the crocked Harbhajan Singh.
England lead the four-match series two-nil after big wins at Lord’s and Trent Bridge, and victory in the third Test would guarantee them the No 1 ranking in Test cricket. Cricket365