Matt Prior scored a superb century as England recovered from a dramatic middle-order collapse to lay the platform for a final day victory push against India.When Prior was joined at the wicket by Stuart Broad, England were in deep trouble on 107-6 – their lead just 295 – after an inspired burst from fast bowler Ishant Sharma.But Broad (74 not out) and Prior gradually sucked the life out of a tiring India attack with some aggressive running and, once England’s supremacy was beyond question, some riotous hitting.When Prior reached his sixth Test hundred, off 120 balls, Andrew Strauss declared on 269-6, setting India a record 458 to win.
Stuart Broad then bowled Abhinav Mukund for 12 in his first over, but Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman drew on all their experience to see India through to the close on 80-1.It was a dogged effort from the veteran duo who were forced to bat higher in the order than usual because of Sachin Tendulkar’s viral infection and an injury to Gautam Gambhir, who suffered heavy bruising when a Prior slog-sweep struck him on the elbow.Both are expected to be fit to bat on Monday, although Tendulkar will not be able to bat until after lunch or at the fall of the fifth wicket, whichever comes first, because of the amount of time he spent off the field.
India’s injury crisis – Zaheer Khan was again unable to bowl because of a hamstring strain – provided an intriguing sub-plot to another thrilling day of Test cricket, on which the momentum swung one way and then the other.The morning session undoubtedly belonged to the touring side, with 22-year seamer Sharma ripping through England’s middle order to turn the match around and awaken all and sundry to the possibility of an India win.Alastair Cook edged Praveen Kumar through to the wicketkeeper for one before Andrew Strauss missed a sweep shot and was lbw for 32.At that stage England were 54-2, but less than five overs later they were well and truly on the ropes at 62-5.
First Kevin Pietersen was surprised by a Sharma lifter and then Ian Bell nicked an away-swinger four balls later. Jonathan Trott had appeared untroubled for his 22 runs, but he played around a fuller ball from Sharma and was bowled.With Sharma curiously kept out of the attack for 40 minutes after lunch, Prior and Eoin Morgan steadied the ship with a partnership of 35.But the return of the long-haired paceman accounted for Morgan, who mis-timed a pull shot and was caught by a diving Gambhir scampering in from mid-wicket.
The batsman stood his ground while the decision was reviewed but there seemed little doubt that the catch had been taken cleanly.From then on it was the Prior and Broad show, the duo batting with positive intent to wrest the initiative back England’s way in a brilliant unbroken stand of 162.With another 98 overs to bowled on Monday, there is still time for India to win this Test but history is very firmly on England’s side.The highest successful run chase in Test history is 418-7 by the West Indies against Australia in 2003, while the best effort at Lord’s was Windies’ 344-1 versus England in 1984. – BBC