Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen stood their ground for England, as the visitors posted a total of 178/2 after India were dismissed for 327 on the second day of the second Test at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai. The spin duo of Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann rattled the Indian batting line-up, sharing nine wickets, but were unable to stop the home side from crossing the 300-run mark.
India resumed batting at the start of the day with Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravichandran Ashwin at the crease. Pujara, who reached a second successive triple-figure score this series on the first day, was undoubtedly the key wicket that England had to get... and early.
As it turned out, England did get an early wicket, but it wasn't the No 3 batsman. Spinner Ashwin (68), who is rapidly establishing himself as an all-rounder, was the first dismissal of the day and he fell to Monty Panesar, who completed a five-wicket haul by outsmarting his fellow spin bowler and trapping him leg before. Panesar completed the day with 5/129.
The turning point of India's first innings was when Pujara misread Swann's top-flighted delivery. The right-hander was short of his crease and England keeper Matt Prior was quick to react. Pujara was finally dismissed, for the first time this series, for a brilliant 135.
Tail-enders Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan did their best to add to the total and provided some very valuable runs, allowing the hosts to post a very competitive first innings total. And given MS Dhoni's men were struggling at 60/3 at a point, it was a very creditable recovery.
Meanwhile, among the England bowlers, Graeme Swann continues to prove why he must be one of the best spinners in Test cricket today. It is not easy for a spinner to come to the subcontinent and out-think and out-bowl some of the best batters of spin in the world. Neverthless, the 33-year-old produced a second successive masterpiece with the ball, scalping 4/70 from 34.1 overs to add to his match haul of 6/190 from the first Test.
England 1st Innings
The visitors walked into bat with just four overs to go to lunch and the first task would have been to negotiate those 24 balls safely. Captain Alastair Cook, who has been as fantastic with the bat for England as Pujara has for India, and Nick Compton did just that.
Compton (29) and Cook (87 not out) put together a good 66-run opening partnership before their tormentor from the first Test, Pragyan Ojhan, returned with two quick strikes. The first to go was the former Middlesex batsman, nicking an edge to Virender Sehwag in the slips. Then Jonathan Trott's poor form continued, with a second duck in three innings so far... and Ojha was again the culprit.
However, Cook and Kevin Pietersen steadied the innings, with comfortable half-centuries from both batsmen closing out second day's play. Cook's 87 was a study in patience and technique and Pietersen, recalled after the messaging scandal involving the South African team, will have done his chances no harm at all with a brisk and exciting 62 off 85 balls.
The two have put 110 runs on the board together, taking England from a potentially dangerous 68/2 to 178/2 at the close of play. India were by no means poor today. The recovery with the bat and the wickets of Compton and Trott constituted a good day's work. However, they were prevented from having it all their way by the two batsmen, who will look to continue in a similar vein on Sunday.
If England can manage to bat out the third day, they should be looking at least a 400+run first innings total, which might swing the match their way.