England’s bowlers backed up the good work of their batsmen to leave the hosts in a commanding position after three days of the third Test against India in Southampton.
India were reduced to 323-8, 246 behind England’s total of 569-7 declared and 47 short of avoiding the follow-on.
In an improved display from the attack as a whole, Stuart Broad claimed three wickets, James Anderson added two to the one he took
and Moeen Ali two of his own.
Ajinkya Rahane, who should have been given out on eight, resisted for 54, while Mahendra Dhoni remained unbeaten on 50.
However, on a blameless pitch, India did little to help themselves, with all of the top order who batted on Tuesday falling after passing 20.
That is to take nothing away from an England bowling unit that has so often been below par this summer, none more so than in
which handed the tourists a 1-0 series lead.
Broad told BBC Sport: “Dreamworld would have been to bowl India out this evening, but we have eight wickets on what is still a really good batting wicket.”
Bowling a consistent full length to find movement in the air and off the pitch, and sparingly using hostile short deliveries, Anderson, Broad and Chris Woakes impressed.
Spinner Moeen chipped in as Rohit Sharma (28) and Rahane gifted their wickets before tea, while only Chris Jordan was regularly wayward.
“Before this Test we had a really good sit-down to get clarity on what we are trying to do,” added Broad. “We are making sure we are trying to hit the top of off as many times as we can, with an aggressive bumper thrown in. We did that today.”
On a scorching day, there were periods that looked ominous for England as Murali Vijay (35), Virat Kohli (39), Rahane, Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja made accomplished starts.
Yet, through patient probing, the hosts were able to prise the regular wickets that leave them well placed to level the series.
It was Anderson, swinging the ball both ways, who struck to remove two important threats. The first came just after lunch when Kohli, who had classily moved to his highest score of the summer, succumbed to a probing line and edged to Alastair Cook at first slip.
And, later in the day, Anderson swung the second new ball into the pads of Jadeja to end a counter-attacking 31.
Broad, overlooked in favour of Woakes first up, eventually arrived to take two wickets in the morning session.
First, a bumper that followed Cheteshwar Pujara took a glove through to give Jos Buttler his first catch as a Test wicketkeeper.
Then Vijay, India’s highest scorer of the series and again looking dangerous, attempted to leave an outswinger that hit the bat and bounced down on to the stumps.
Following Kohli’s exit, Rahane, who survived gloving Moeen down the leg side to Buttler, scored heavily through the off side as he rebuilt in a stand of 74 with Sharma.
But both men would fall to the off-spinner in inexplicable fashion either side of tea.
Sharma, looking to repeat a hit down the ground, sliced horribly to Broad at mid-off.
And after the break, Moeen, who was
not to put on the pro-Gaza wristbands he wore on Monday, served up a long hop that Rahane toe-ended to mid-wicket.
At 217-6, India were exposed to the second new ball, only to be steadied by captain Dhoni and the dashing Jadeja.
That was until Anderson ended a partnership of 58 and, when Gary Ballance made up for dropping Bhuvneshwar Kumar at third slip off Broad by diving forward to take the same batsman off an inside edge, India were left further away from the follow-on mark.
Dhoni’s continued presence means hope remains, while England may have to assess the fitness of their bowlers overnight to decide if it would be enforced.
Batting again could mean being without Ian Bell, who spent the majority of the day off the field with a thumb injury.
When asked about the follow-on, Broad said: “As a bowler, I’m saying 100% ‘No’. But, I don’t know what Cookie is thinking.
“Unless you have a world-class spinner, it makes it very hard.
“I’d always vote for even a 30 or 40-over rest for a bowler, to bring the fielding unit and the bowlers energy back, to go again.”