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.
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.