Patient England dig in

Alastair Cook was out for 13 off 93 balls

Alastair Cook was out for 13 off 93 balls

First published in National Sport News © by

England adopted extreme measures for extreme conditions, but still needed to bat at least another two sessions to be sure of a famous series victory in India.

After the hosts declared four runs behind on the fourth morning of the final Test on this uniquely lifeless pitch at the VCA Stadium, England crawled to a stoic 81 from 46.4 overs for the loss of openers Alastair Cook and Nick Compton by tea.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni had closed India's innings on 326 for nine, four runs behind, in a match the tourists need only draw to hang on for a 2-1 series success. Cook and Compton duly concerned themselves with crease occupation, almost to the complete exclusion of runs.

It was symptomatic in fact of the turgid lack of pace in this surface that, five minutes before lunch, Compton edged Ravichandran Ashwin for the first boundary of the day by either team. Sixty runs per session has been the norm here, and on that basis England can perhaps hope to be 200 in front if they can bat - as they should - until lunch on Monday.

It took Cook 27 balls to register his first run - and when he pushed Ishant Sharma for that scampered single, having made just one too in his first innings, he had mustered two from 55 deliveries in the match.

His strike rate got even worse before marginally better in a 93-ball innings of 13, during which he became England's highest all-time Test runscorer in India. After Cook went, unluckily for the second time in the match when Kumar Dharmasena detected an edge and caught-behind off Ashwin where video replay suggested there was none, Jonathan Trott tore up the template by sweeping his first ball for four.

England's accumulation of breathing space remained a tense business, however, relieved just for a moment when one delivery slipped from Ravindra Jadeja's hand and barely trickled in Trott's direction before coming to a standstill two-thirds of the way down the pitch.

He was quickly out of his crease to smash the stationary ball past square-leg, for a precious fourth boundary of the innings - in the 38th over. Then on the stroke of tea, England lost Compton to Pragyan Ojha.

The initial scorecard entry was lbw, despite an apparent inside edge on to pad, but the ball looped for a gully catch anyway. India began Sunday morning on 297 for eight, after losing four wickets in the last 14 overs on Saturday night.

The first half-hour brought them just 10 runs, all in singles as Ashwin tried to farm the strike. They almost doubled that rate, for the loss of Ojha who played on in defence to give Monty Panesar his only wicket in 52 overs, before Dhoni called the last pair in.

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