Keeper's century sets up final day push for victory

 

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The Independent Online

England have given themselves a clear chance to beat India here today and take an early lead in a series. They need nine more wickets against a side now badly hit by injuries and ill luck.

India, set a never before achieved fourth-innings victory target of 458, will resume on 80 for 1. The pitch is playing well enough for them to survive the 98 overs that remain but their best batsman, Sachin Tendulkar, spent most of yesterday off the field because of a viral infection, while opener Gautam Gambhir could not launch the innings last night after being struck on the left elbow when fielding.

Far from pressing on merrily, England found themselves in unexpected difficulties yesterday when they lost four wickets for eight runs in the space of 32 balls to slip to 62 for 5. At that stage, their lead in this first of four Tests was only 250 and India sensed a real opportunity.

A so far terrific match – the 2,000th Test of all time and the 100th between these two countries – turned firmly in England's favour again, however, thanks to a wonderful, unbeaten century from Matt Prior. He calmed the home team's nerves during a stand of 45 with Eoin Morgan, then powered to three figures in partnership with Stuart Broad (74 not out). Between them, the pair added 162 at almost a run a ball.

It was Prior's second Test century of the summer at Lord's – he made 126 against Sri Lanka last month – and Andrew Strauss declared the innings at 269 for 6 as soon as his wicketkeeper had completed his hundred, coming from 120 balls.

That was not the end of India's problems for the day, however. Broad, who bowled magnificently on Saturday to take four wickets and then batted with increasing confidence in partnership with Prior, soon dismissed inexperienced opener Abhinav Mukund.

Happily for India, Rahul Dravid – who scored a century in the first innings and was pressed into service as an opener yesterday – and another veteran batsman, V V S Laxman, denied England further success before stumps.

Tendulkar is expected to be able to bat today but Gambhir's chances of being fit enough to face England's bowlers, if necessary, remained uncertain last night. The tourists also have their most experienced bowler, Zaheer Khan, under an injury cloud because of a hamstring problem.

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