- England v India, 3rd Test
England eye win after perfect day
India 330 (Rahane 54, Dhoni 50, Anderson 5-53) and 112 for 4 (Moeen 2-33) need 333 more to beat England 569 for 7 dec (Bell 167, Ballance 156, Cook 95, Buttler 85) and 205 for 4 dec (Cook 70*, Root 56*)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
England continued to play the near-perfect Test and India were powerless to hinder them. At times it looked like they weren't even trying, as the cracks in their 1-0 series lead spider-webbed towards shattering point.
The home side did everything right on the fourth day in Southampton. James Anderson mopped up the last two Indian wickets in 4.1 overs; their batsmen scored at five an over to facilitate a declaration by tea; and then their part-time spinners knocked over India's top order and left England needing only six wickets on the fifth day to win a Test they have dominated for its entirety.
India were shoddy right through this match and never more so than in the final session today, when they began their impossible chase of 445 and their improbable 132-over survival battle. There wasn't as much swing or seam movement for England's new-ball bowlers and Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan survived opening spells from James Anderson and Stuart Broad without too many scares.
The hard work had been done but in the very next over from Chris Woakes an important flaw in Vijay's game - his sometimes laidback approach - cost him his wicket. Dhawan had dropped the ball close on the leg side and run. Broad ran in from midwicket, under-armed the throw at the striker's end, and hit the stumps. Vijay did not sprint. He did not stretch. He did not extend his bat fully while grounding it. He did not dive. Vijay thought he was safe. He was not, by an inch. Given the trouble India were in, Vijay's lack of commitment to that single was shocking.
Moeen Ali had taken two wickets in the first innings to further his credentials as more than just a part-time spinner. Today, he struck with his second ball, as Cheteshwar Pujara overestimated the turn on the offbreak and edged to slip where Chris Jordan, who had a mediocre match with the ball, swooped low to his right to hold a one-handed catch that would have been the envy of India's slipshod cordon.
Moeen was bowling far better than India's spinner Ravindra Jadeja had. With a little flight and drift, he fizzed balls out of the rough, and the natural variations in the degree of turn caused serious problems. He should have had Dhawan lbw on 20 but the batsman was reprieved and went on to add 51 for the third wicket with Virat Kohli.
Like they did each time in India's first innings, England broke the partnership before it grew to significant proportions. Joe Root did it, getting Dhawan to edge to Jordan at slip. England's weakest bowling link had ended India's strongest stand. Moeen returned for a second spell and in his second over he drew Kohli forward and Jos Buttler caught the thin edge. India were 89 for 4.
That England had as many as 132 overs to bowl India out was down to their clinical performance in the first two sessions. India had begun the fourth morning on 323 for 8, trailing by 246, with their captain MS Dhoni at the crease on 50. Any hope of frustrating England, however, was snuffed by two bouncers from Anderson. Dhoni tried to hook, while Mohammed Shami tried to sway away. Both gloved to Jos Buttler to give Anderson his 16th five-wicket haul on his 32nd birthday, and England a 239-run lead inside the first half hour.
England were not delayed while batting either. They scored freely of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and while Pankaj Singh was tight in his first spell, he was also luckless. His match analysis of 0 for 179 was the most expensive for a wicketless debutant.
Gary Ballance started slowly, scoring 3 off his first 18 balls, but went from first gear into overdrive in a blink. He punched Bhuvneshwar straight for a couple, flicked for four and drove past the bowler for another boundary, off successive deliveries. His best shot was a powerful punch that rocketed past Shami and thudded into the boundary boards. England were pushing towards four an over.
When Dhoni turned to part-time offspinner Rohit Sharma, Ballance promptly smacked him over his head for six, and lashed one through covers. When Jadeja came on, he reverse-slapped him to the point boundary. Ballance was sawn off once again, though. On the stroke of lunch, the ball lobbed to short leg off his pad and thigh, but umpire Marais Erasmus upheld Jadeja's appeal.
Ian Bell, Root and Cook carried on swelling the lead rapidly after lunch, and it became increasingly clear England would not need to bat after tea. While Cook rotated strike, Bell scored 23 at more than a run a ball. Jadeja eventually bowled him round his legs, but India's hurt was about to get so much worse.
Root and Cook added 99 in 14.2 overs. Cook swept Jadeja to bring up his fifty - his second of the Test and much more convincing than his first - and then swept him again to take the lead to 400. Root was going at nearly a run a ball without hitting boundaries, but he soon began hitting them and brought up his half-century off 38 deliveries. He got there by scooping Bhuvneshwar over the keeper and bludgeoning him twice down the ground for four.
When Root was bowled 25 minutes before the scheduled tea break, with England on 205 for 4 in the 41st over, Cook decided it was time to let his bowlers begin the endgame.
George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo