AHMEDABAD : England restored some pride on the third day of the first Test against India in Ahmedabad but their improved performance did little to slow the hosts' inexorable march toward victory.
England captain Alastair Cook yesterday made an unbeaten half-century but will need more runs if his side is to avoid defeat.
After their top-order collapse the previous evening, England began the day's play on 41-3, in response to India's imposing first-innings total of 521-8 declared. The tourists' hopes of avoiding the follow-on rested heavily on Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen but after a fraught first hour, in which Pietersen never looked settled, England's resistance gave way.
Pietersen was bowled by Pragyan Ojha for 17 and Ian Bell was dismissed for a golden duck off the next ball, caught at mid-off by Sachin Tendulkar. Cook's resolute innings ended shortly after, caught off the bowling of Ravichandran Ashwin for a controlled 41.
When Samit Patel followed his captain back to the pavilion after being given out lbw to Umesh Yadav, England were 97-7, well short of the 321 required to force India to bat again.
Nevertheless, England's tail wagged impressively, keeper-batsman Matthew Prior, Tim Bresnan and Stuart Broad making a better fist of scoring runs than their top-order colleagues.
Still, England were simply too far behind for it to make a difference. When Prior was dismissed for 48 _ bowled by Ojha, who claimed his fifth wicket _ England were all out for 191, their shortcomings against spin exposed once more.
India enforced the follow-on and England's openers were far more successful the second time around, combining for an unbeaten 111-run stand, Cook, with 74, well-supported by debutant Nick Compton, who finished the day 34 not out.
Barring rain, though, England's hopes of escaping defeat appear forlorn _ they still trail by 219 runs, meaning they will likely need to bat through the fourth day and well into the fifth to avoid going 1-0 down in this four-Test series. Perhaps the best they can hope for is improvement from their top six and some momentum going into the second Test in Mumbai, which starts on Friday.