Mumbai: India were staring at an embarrassing defeat in the second cricket Test against a spirited England who rode on Kevin Pietersen and Alastair Cook`s brilliant centuries to gain a vital 86-run lead before the spinners tightened the noose around the hosts here on Sunday.
Pietersen (186) and Cook (122) notched up their 22nd Test centuries in a masterly exhibition of batsmanship on a turning track as England folded up for 413 just at the stroke of tea before reducing the hosts to a precarious 117 for seven at close on the third day.
After conceding a 86-run lead, India`s top order batsmen surrendered rather tamely to the English spinners who exploited the conditions far better than their Indian counterparts who inexplicably lacked the sting.
Gautam Gambhir (53) and Harbhajan Singh (1) were at the crease with India just 31 runs ahead on a day which saw as many as 15 wickets fall on a Wankhede pitch giving ample assistance to the spinners. Virender Sehwag (9), Cheteshwar Pujara (6), Sachin Tendulkar (8), Virat Kohli (7), Yuvraj Singh (8) captain M S Dhoni (6) and R Ashwin (11) were back in the pavilion much to the disappointment of a huge Sunday crowd.
Monty Panesar, who claimed five wickets in the first innings, was the chief destroyer with another five-for as India`s famed batsmen fell prey to the left-arm spinner who extracted a lot of spin and bounce.
The day clearly belonged to Pietersen and Cook who tilted the balance in England`s favour with a record 206-run partnership for the third wicket, eclipsing the previous record of 144 between Mike Gatting and Allan Lamb in 1984-85.
Cook, who struck his second successive century, anchored the innings while Pietersen was the more aggressive partner as the pair frustrated the Indian spinners. Pietersen never allowed the spinners to settle down as he kept the score moving with a flurry of shots.