Prior's defiant century leaves England in control

England 474-8 dec & 269-6 dec v India 286 & 80-1
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Matt Prior's defiant century left England in full control of the 2000th Test as they set injury-hit India a world-record chase on day four at Lord's.

The tourists looked to have wrestled some of the momentum from the home side in the morning session as an inspired spell from Ishant Sharma ripped the heart out of England's middle order to leave them 62 for five.

But Prior was unflappable en route to a sixth Test ton, making 103 not out as he and Stuart Broad (74 not out) took England to 269 for six declared - a mammoth lead of 457.

India closed on 80 for one and to take stave off England on the final day must manage concerns over Gautam Gambhir (elbow), Zaheer Khan (hamstring) and Sachin Tendulkar, who was sidelined for most of the day by a viral infection.

The West Indies hold the record for the highest chase in a fourth innings - making 418 against Australia in 2003 - and with India's best chase at Lord's standing at just 136, a draw looks the likeliest result.

Andrew Strauss progressed serenely to 20 at the start of the day, but Alastair Cook mustered just one single in 27 balls before feathering Praveen Kumar to Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Jonathan Trott settled quicker but was almost run out by Suresh Raina's direct hit.

India tightened things up well to frustrate England and had their reward when Strauss went to sweep Harbhajan Singh and was pinned lbw for 32.

That brought England's double centurion Kevin Pietersen back to the crease, but there was no repeat performance as a rising delivery from Sharma beat him for pace and bounce, Dhoni snaffling the catch.

Sharma cranked up the pressure five balls later, taking Ian Bell's edge with a fuller delivery and sending him back for a duck.

Sharma had gone wicketless in the first innings but looked an entirely different prospect as England slipped from 54 for one to 55 for four.

Trott was the next to fall to the revitalised Sharma, who this time speared one through the batsman's defences to topple him for 22.

Prior came to the crease with England listing at 62 for five, but put his side back on track alongside Eoin Morgan.

The sixth-wicket pair were spared Sharma for 10 overs after lunch, adding 32 important runs, and a tidy sweep from Prior brought up England's hundred before Dhoni summoned Sharma.

The 22-year-old took eight balls to make his mark, hurrying Morgan, who was late on the pull and lobbed a chance to Gambhir.

Morgan reviewed his diving catch but could not be saved and exited for 19.

Broad, on a king pair, dug out a yorker first up and survived well as the lead ticked past 300.

He grew in confidence with a muscular pull off Sharma and then had a slice of luck when he edged between keeper and slip for four.

By now Prior had started to sap India's momentum, swelling the lead and then sending Gambhir to hospital when he hit him flush on the elbow at short leg.

Prior made his half-century before tea, with Broad following him to the mark as the runs came easily against a weary Indian attack.

The evening session began with a flurry of shots as the 100-run stand and 400-run lead came up.

By now it was apparent Strauss was delaying the declaration for Prior's century.

He did not make his captain wait too long as he began to pepper the boundary and sprint between the wickets.

A six off Raina took him past 90 and a sweet four through cover ushered in a richly-deserved ton in 120 balls.

Broad would surely have added one of his own - a second at Lord's following last year's maiden effort against Pakistan - but will have been content with his unbeaten 74.

With Gambhir having his elbow assessed, Rahul Dravid took his opening spot on the back of a consummate hundred in the first innings.

As it was, the 38-year-old outlasted his partner Abhinav Mukund.

Broad continued his fine match by taking the scalp as Mukund (12) chopped on for the second time in the Test.

Broad bowled a supreme spell at Dravid without the same luck before the veteran helped himself to two boundaries off James Anderson at the Pavilion End.

Dravid moved to 34 not out at stumps, while VVS Laxman closed on 32 after hitting Chris Tremlett for three consecutive boundaries.

Graeme Swann will be a crucial figure on day five, but he had no joy in five overs before close.

Tendulkar's absence means he cannot bat until 12.41pm or after five wickets are down, whichever comes first.

Comments