New Delhi,Nov 25: 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 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.
But the England innings collapsed after the dismissal of Pietersen, with the last six wickets falling for just 56 runs. Pragyan Ojha was the pick of the Indian bowlers with five for 143 while Harbhajan Singh and Ashwin chipped in with two wickets apiece.
India sliced through the England innings after Cook was dismissed. With their efforts, both Cook and Pietersen joined Walter Hammond, Colin Cowdrey and Geoff Boycott who hold the record for the maximum Test tons for England.
The duo's double century-stand assumed more significance after the last eight English wickets fell for 139 runs.
Ojha had figures of five for 143, his second fifer in as many Tests.
England lost their last four wickets in a heap, for the addition of just seven runs, once wicketkeeper Matt Prior was run out at 406.
The tourists, who resumed on 178 for two overnight, were dismissed eight minutes before tea. The England skipper departed when he edged Ashwin to Dhoni who later caught Pietersen off Ojha in the second hour after lunch.
Cook's departure before lunch triggered a collapse in which seven wickets fell in quick succession.
Once the Cook-Pietersen partnership was broken, Ojha got into his wicket taking act with a spell of three for 52 on either side of lunch during which he sent back Jonny Bairstow (9), Samit Patel (26) and Pietersen, who struck 21 fours and four sixes in his 233-ball knock in 317 minutes.
Ojha had accounted for Nick Compton and Jonathan Trott yesterday. But Pietersen was especially harsh on Ojha who foxed him twice at Ahmedabad.
Ashwin captured the wicket of Cook while Harbhajan Singh, the third spinner in the team, struck late in the session to send back Stuart Broad caught brilliantly at silly point by a diving Pujara, and then trapped James Anderson in front.