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Cricket | International

Alastair Cook © Gallo Images

Cook, Prior spare England's blushes

Alastair Cook and Matt Prior withstood India to carry England into a narrow lead on day four of the first test in Ahmedabad on Sunday, having followed on.

Cook batted through the day, his vigil 501 minutes long, to finish on 168 not out, while Prior partnered him for 51 overs, reaching 84 in an unbroken stand worth 141 runs. That took England to 340 for five at the close, 10 runs ahead of India with five second-innings wickets in hand.

Until Prior's arrival to the middle, it looked as if the captain would run out of support for his brave knock, with wickets falling around him as England looked to avoid an innings defeat.

Opener Nick Compton fell early in the day, trapped lbw by Zaheer Khan for 37 and looking less assured than he did the previous evening.

Jonathan Trott avoided a pair, but fell for 17 after edging to MS Dhoni, who took a good catch with the gloves.

Kevin Pietersen also fell in the morning session, his dismissal the ugliest of the lot, bowled around his legs after missing a sweep shot to become Pragyan Ojha's seventh victim of the match.

Ian Bell stayed with Cook until lunch, but perished when well-set on 22, beaten by a reverse-swinging yorker from Umesh Yadav. Samit Patel followed the very next ball to a similar delivery for a golden duck, although replays showed he had got an inside edge on the ball, his second rough decision in the match.

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At that point, an innings defeat before the end of the day looked a distinct possibility, but Cook was unbowed, and Prior, who top-scored in the first innings, combined with him to great effect.

Their partnership owed everything to discipline and patience. They were prepared to wait two and three overs at a time without scoring a run, waiting for the right opportunity, and when India's spinners did produce good deliveries that fizzed past the bat, they put them to the back of their mind and moved on.

That steady approach wore down India, who have now been in the field for seven straight sessions and were visibly fatigued as the day progressed. The home side sitting down on the outfield for their drinks break in the heat of the final session told its own story.

Their biggest slice of luck for England fell Prior's way - he was plumb in front to Ojha with an hour remaining in the day's play, but Umpire Aleem Dar turned it down.

India, who missed out on Cook yesterday evening to a similar ball when he had just 41 to his name, will surely rue the absence of DRS (at the behest of their board) - had they had the reviews, the match might well already be over.

But that should take nothing away from Cook and Prior. The captain became England's highest run-scorer in Asia during the course of the day, and also posted the highest test innings by an England test skipper in India.

Most importantly for the tourists, though, it gives them a chance, albeit still a slim one, of coming away from Ahmedabad without being beaten. It will require more good batting on day five, but it is remarkable that there is even a possibility.

Courtesy of Eurosport

Report Day 1
Report Day 2
Report Day 3

INDIA: V Sehwag, G Gambhir, CA Pujara, SR Tendulkar, V Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni (capt & wk), R Ashwin, Z Khan, UT Yadav, PP Ojha

ENGLAND: AN Cook (capt), NRD Compton, IJL Trott, KP Pietersen, IR Bell, SR Patel, MJ Prior (wk), SCJ Broad, TT Bresnan, GP Swann, JM Anderson


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