India crumbles as England poised to equal Test series

Updated 26 November 2012
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India crumbles as England poised to equal Test series

MUMBAI: Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen struck record-equaling 22nd Test centuries before Monty Panesar spun England into a commanding position at stumps on day three of the second Test in Mumbai.
Cook (122) made an unprecedented fourth consecutive century as captain and Pietersen cracked a scintillating 186 as both men drew level with three all-time greats in Wally Hammond, Geoff Boycott and Colin Cowdrey as their country’s most prolific centurions.
Cook’s second successive hundred against India — following his rearguard 176 in last week’s defeat at Ahmedabad — and Pietersen’s first since last summer helped England post 413, giving them a useful first-innings lead of 86.
It was then time for England’s spinners to take center stage and, with the pitch beginning to turn and bounce appreciably, they made immediate inroads to leave India tottering on 117-7 at stumps — a lead of only 31.
Panesar, fresh from his five-wicket haul in the first innings, claimed five more in the final session on day three, a feat which sees him become the first England spinner to take 10 wickets in India since Hedley Verity did so in Madras back in 1934.
The left-arm spinner accounted for Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni and Ravi Ashwin, while spin partner Graeme Swann snared Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli to make England firm favorites to level the four-match series today.
Sehwag was the first of seven India batsman to depart after tea, edging a spinning Panesar delivery to Swann at slip, while Pujara endured a rare failure, presenting Jonny Bairstow with a sharp catch at short leg.
Sachin Tendulkar, playing what could be his last Test match in front of his home crowd, once again fell to Panesar, playing back to a quicker delivery, which pinned him lbw for just eight — his 10th successive score of less than 28.
India slumped to 65-4 when Virat Kohli inexplicably hit a Swann full toss straight to sub fielder Joe Root at mid-off and England’s day got even better when Dhoni edged Panesar to Swann and Ravi Ashwin spooned the same bowler straight up to Samit Patel.
Gautam Gambhir (53 not out) held firm for India and remains key to the home side’s fading chances of posting a target, which may trouble England on a wearing pitch.
Controversial
Captain Cook and Pietersen shared a superb 206-run partnership for the fourth wicket to help England claim a vital first-innings lead on the stroke of tea at the Wankhede Stadium.
Cook, out on his own with his fourth century in his first four Tests as captain after his two while standing in for Andrew Strauss in Bangladesh two-and-half years ago, reached three figures with a cover-driven four off Harbhajan Singh.
Pietersen operated at a quicker tempo throughout in an innings, which gave England telling impetus and truly rubber-stamped his return to the fold after his disagreements with management and senior players last summer.
Five minutes after Cook completed his century, Pietersen did likewise, from only 127 balls — with a reverse-sweep just wide of slip off Harbhajan for his 15th four.

When Cook finally departed, via a faint edge behind in forward-defense as Ashwin found some turn, Pietersen jogged 30 yards down the wicket and past the stumps to voice his personal acknowledgement as the captain made his way off the pitch.
New batsman Bairstow (9) fell shortly after in controversial circumstances in what proved to be the final ball before lunch, his bat/pad catch being taken by Gambhir at silly point, but not before the ball had deflected off the fielder’s grille.
Pietersen continued to take the fight to India, sweeping Pragyan Ojha for three further sixes before the left armer finally got his revenge with Dhoni claiming a sharp catch behind the wicket.
With the ball spinning and bouncing appreciably, England’s tail meekly folded from 382-5 to 413 all out, with Ojha continuing his impressive series with figures of 5-143.
Wicketkeeper Matt Prior was involved in a mix-up with Stuart Broad and as a result run-out for 21, while Broad propped a catch to silly-point; James Anderson went in the same Harbhajan over; and Panesar was last out slog-sweeping straight to deep midwicket.


Chelsea face Manchester United in FA Cup final as Olivier Giroud sinks Southampton

Updated 4 min 55 sec ago
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Chelsea face Manchester United in FA Cup final as Olivier Giroud sinks Southampton

London: Chelsea booked an FA Cup final showdown with Manchester United as Olivier Giroud tormented Southampton again with a sublime strike in Sunday’s 2-0 win at Wembley.
Giroud has made a habit of scoring against Southampton and the France forward was their nemesis in a one-sided semifinal.
Opting to select Giroud instead of Alvaro Morata proved a shrewd move by Chelsea manager Antonio Conte as the former Arsenal star produced a tremendous piece of skill to break the deadlock early in the second half.
Giroud has feasted on Southampton this season, scoring twice to spark Chelsea’s 3-2 win last weekend and also netting a late equalizer against them for Arsenal in December.
His fourth goal for Chelsea since his January signing was followed by a late header from substitute Morata, setting up a heavyweight final against United at Wembley on May 19.
That will be Chelsea’s last chance to win major silverware at the end of a troubled season.
“The most important thing is to reach the final. This is the second FA Cup final in a row for us. I’m delighted for our fans,” Conte said.
“For sure, Olivier has been a good signing for us. I needed a player like him, strong physically, to hold the ball up.
“Today I decided to start with Olivier because I knew we were playing against three strong central defenders, but when Morata came on the impact was impressive as well.”
Chelsea’s 13th FA Cup final appearance will be a repeat of the 2007 showpiece, when Jose Mourinho’s men won 1-0.
The Blues, back in the final after losing to Arsenal in May, last won the competition in 2012 and are bidding to lift the trophy for the eighth time.
Winning the FA Cup might not be enough to convince either Conte or Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich that their two-year partnership should be extended.
Conte has spent much of the season complaining about Chelsea’s failure to back his transfer plans, while several of his players are believed to be unhappy with his demanding training sessions and intense personality.
The Blues face a tough task to qualify for the Champions League via a top-four finish in the Premier League as they trail fourth-placed Tottenham by five points.
Against that backdrop, winning the Cup would at least provide an uplifting conclusion to a frustrating campaign.
For Southampton, the focus returns to their desperate battle to avoid relegation, with just four games left to climb out of the bottom three.
Saints boss Mark Hughes claimed the crucial moment was the officials’ refusal to use the video assistant referee when Chelsea keeper Willy Caballero may have dropped the ball over the line under pressure from Charlie Austin.
“We are disappointed with the officials. Their goalkeeper has thrown the ball into the back of the net,” Hughes complained.
“If ever there was a case for VAR to review, that was the moment. Why it wasn’t referred I’ve no idea.”
Giroud was warming to the task of giving Southampton another headache and he went close to breaking the deadlock with an acrobatic volley before half-time.
Chelsea’s dominance was finally rewarded in the 46th minute.
Cesc Fabregas lofted a pass toward Eden Hazard and he controlled brilliantly in mid-air before slipping the ball through to Giroud.
There was still work for Giroud to do and he side-stepped three defenders with surprising grace, his nimble footwork giving him just enough space to slot home from close range.
After Caballero got away with his sloppy handling, Austin appealed in vain for a penalty when Giroud left his arm out to block the forward’s header.
But it was too little, too late and Morata came off the bench to wrap up the win with just his third goal in his last 19 appearances.
Morata, who has failed to impress since his move from Real Madrid last year, was furious after being hauled off at Burnley.
Just days later, he was all smiles when he nodded home from Cesar Azpilicueta’s 82nd-minute cross.