England chip away after Dravid's epic
This was a proper day of Test cricket, which has been a rarity over the last two matches, with a Rahul Dravid masterclass making England dig deeper for their successes.
However, his unbeaten 146 wasn't enough to save the follow-on and India still face a huge task to avoid the whitewash after closing on 129 for 3 although Sachin Tendulkar remained on 35. Graeme Swann made the early inroads, including the scalp of Dravid, during a superb spell on a pitch offering plenty of turn.
Dravid's unbeaten hundred, his third ton of the series, was a magnificent innings, contributing nearly half India's total (the first time they had reached 300 in the series) during six hours at the crease and 266 balls. He became the third India batsman to carry his bat, after Virender Sehwag and Sunil Gavaskar, and due to Gautam Gambhir's ongoing problems with concussion was back out 10 minutes later for the follow-on. When he took guard he had 448 runs for the series and India's next best was MS Dhoni with 217.
His second innings then included both sides of the review system. On 7 he was saved when it was clear there was no bat or glove when he had been given caught short leg off Swann. A run later he had a life when Matt Prior couldn't hold an edge, although it was signalled four byes which would have likely brought DRS into play again had the chance been held.
His eventual dismissal was an overturned decision as Steve Davis, the third umpire, decided there was conclusive evidence to suggest Rod Tucker could change his on-field not-out decision. Hot Spot didn't appear to show anything clear from the front angle, while the side-on view was obscured by Alastair Cook at short leg but Dravid later admitted to a thin edge.
The debate was still bubbling when Swann claimed his second, a wonderful piece of bowling when he drew Sehwag forward and bowled him through the gate. Sehwag, after three innings totalling eight balls, was unusually restrained against the quicks but eager to attack Swann. It was always fraught with danger with big turn from the footmarks which made for a fascinating contest that ultimately went Swann's way.
The battles continued against Tendulkar and VVS Laxman; batsmen brought up on turning pitches against an attacking spinner searching for wickets. England sensed further scalps and came close on a number of occasions. The scorebook will show that Laxman took three fours in a row off Swann, but one was inside edge past leg stump and another a glove that eluded leg slip. Then, on 20, he was dropped at first slip by Andrew Strauss off James Anderson, but six overs before the close he played down the wrong line to Anderson and lost his off stump.
Tendulkar survived - although not without a few scares including a potential stumping when England didn't appear to appeal with his foot in the air for a second - and that offers an enticing prospect for what is expected to be a near full house on the final day. In all probability he will need to secure his 100th hundred if India are to survive.
India had started the day on 103 for 5, but the second half of their innings proved harder to extract than the first. Dravid's progress to three figures during the morning wasn't without alarm as he offered England two chances to run him out. The closest came on 61, when there was confusion between him and Dhoni following a Ravi Bopara misfielded at cover, but Kevin Pietersen couldn't hit the stumps. Then Stuart Broad had a shy from mid-off when Dravid sprinted for his 99th run and had to dive.
A blow on the bottom hand from Bresnan caused Dravid pain, but two balls later he steered the same bowler towards third man to bring up his century from 168 deliveries. The most enthralling aspect of the innings was his contest with Swann, which went hands down to the batsman. Dravid had moved through the 90s with three boundaries off Swann; a rare slog-sweep, a late cut and a flick through midwicket. His ability to play late off the back foot continued to make it difficult for Swann to find the right length.
The one breakthrough of the morning went to Anderson, who was rewarded for some probing outswing when he found Dhoni's edge. Gambhir dropped further down the order, but Mishra provided Dravid with excellent support in a stand of 87 and showed more gumption that some of the top-order batsmen as he played sensibly with the occasional flourish, including a six off the last ball before lunch.
Mishra's resistance was ended when Ian Bell plucked out a diving catch at short square leg and Gambhir made his appearance at No. 9. He was dropped at short leg on 1, a tough chance to Cook off Swann, and didn't look comfortable during his stay, although he at least offered Dravid further support. Unsurprisingly, England's quicks peppered him with the short delivery, and it was an approach that paid off when Broad made one bounce with the new ball and found the edge to gully.
RP Singh proved an able replacement for Praveen Kumar's lower-order hitting, making a 23-ball 25 before he flapped Tim Bresnan to third slip and two balls later Sreesanth drove straight to mid-off. It was a poor piece of cricket from Sreesanth with Dravid still unbeaten, but then it isn't the first time India's stand-out performer had been let down in the series. On the final day India need someone else to save them.