Birmingham, Aug 12 (PTI): Alastair Cook hit a career-best 294 as a ruthless England buried India under a massive 486-run lead to leave the visitors with a daunting task of saving the third Test and their number one ranking, here today.
The 26-year-old Cook anchored the innings brilliantly as he batted for close to two days before the hosts declared their first innings at an imposing 710 for 7 at the fag end of the third day.
In reply, India lost Virender Sehwag yet again for a first ball duck to be struggling at 35 for 1, still trailing by 451 runs to avoid an innings defeat. Gautam Gambhir (14) and Rahul Dravid (18) were at the crease when stumps were drawn for the day.
With two days left in the match, Indians will have to bat out of their skin to save the Test on an Edgbaston track which is expected to deteriorate on the last day.
A defeat for India will not only seal the series-win for England the series but also the tag of the number one Test team in the world.
In what was built as a high voltage contest between two top teams, has turned out to be a mismatch of gigantic proportions with India being outplayed in every department of the game right through the series so far.
The highlight of the day was Cook�s splendid batting as the left-hander batted for 767 minutes and grinded the Indian attack down for 545 balls, hitting 33 fours.
Leg-spinner Amit Mishra was the most successful bowler for India with 3 wickets but he gave away 150 runs. Indians had the worst-start possible to their second innings when opener Sehwag fell to the first ball he faced � caught at first slip off James Anderson as he tried to reach out to an out swinger.
Gambhir too suffered an anxious moment when a Tim Bresnan ripper rose from a length and hit the batsman on his right fingers even as he took an instinctive, evasive action.
England�s previous best against the Indians was a total of 653, they had racked up against Mohammed Azharuddin�s team at Lord�s in 1990.
Cook shared a 222-run fourth wicket stand with another left-hander, Eoin Morgan (104) who registered the second Test century of his yet nascent Test career.
Morgan�s knock spanned 247 minutes and contained 11 fours from 199 balls.
When Cook reached 286, he overtook Peter May�s 285 against the West Indies in 1957 as the highest total achieved at this ground.
India 1st Innings: 224 all out
England 1st Innings: (Overnight 456 for 3) Andrew Strauss b Mishra 87, Alistair Cook c Raina b Sharma 294, Ian Bell b Kumar 34, Kevin Pietersen lbw b Kumar 63, Eoin Morgan c Sehwag b Raina 104, Ravi Bopara lbw b Mishra 7, Matt Prior c Tendulkar b Mishra 5, Tim Bresnan not out 53; Extras: (B-11, LB-34, WD-3, NB-15) 63. Total: (For 7 wkts dec in 188.1 overs) 646. Fall of wickets: 1-186, 2-252, 3-374, 4-596, 5-605, 6-613, 7-710. Bowling: Praveen Kumar 40-13-98-2, Sreesanth 36-4-158-0, Ishant Sharma 37.1-7-159-1, Amit Mishra 43-2-150-3, Suresh Raina 28-1-83-1, Sachin Tendulkar 4-0-17-0.
India 2nd Innings: Gautam Gambhir batting 14, Virender Sehwag c Strauss b Anderson 0, Rahul Dravid batting 18; Extras: (LB-1, W-2) 3. Total: (for 1 wkt in 12 overs) 35. Fall of wicket: 1-3. Bowling: James Anderson 5-1-18-1, Stuart Broad 2-0-7-0, Tim Bresnan 3-0-4-0, Graeme Swann 1-0-4-0, Kevin Pietersen 1-0-1-0.