Kolkata: England humiliated India once again on Saturday as the visitors were close to register another big victory over the hosts, restricting them to 239 for 9 on day four of the third Test and trailing by just 32 runs.
And if Ravichandran Ashwin hadn't dug deep with his effort of unbeaten 83, India would have lost the match by an innings on the fourth day itself. The offspinner, who also took three wickets in England's first innings, showed the application that his team-mates lacked as he, along with Ishant Sharma (10), kept England at bay.
Ashwin brought up his third Test fifty by hitting two back-to-back fours off Swann. His 37-run partnership off 108 balls for the ninth wicket and an unbroken 42-run stand off 63 balls for the last wicket with Pragyan Ojha (3*) erased England's lead of 207 and made sure that England would have to bat again.
The visitors ripped through the Indian batting in the second session, picking up six wickets for 59 runs to put the hosts reeling at 145 for 6 at tea, still 62 runs behind England's first innings score of 523.
Graeme Swann started India's downfall as he bowled Virender Sehwag (49) through the gate on the first ball after lunch. Gautam Gambhir (40), who seemed to have got his confidence back a little by launching Monty Panesar for a six and a four just before lunch, became tentative again, prodding at everything outside his off stump and getting anxious to get to the other end. His nervousness cost India the wicket of their most successful batsman of the series - Cheteshwar Pujara - when he called the batsman for a single which was never available.
But instead of getting more determined after running Pujara out and getting a lifeline from the third umpire, Gambhir wafted outside his off stump again to a full delivery by Steven Finn and Matt Prior did the rest, taking a one-handed catch diving to his left.
Sachin Tendulkar got the usual reception from the Kolkata crowd when he walked into the middle probably the last time in his career. But he was caught by Jonathan Trott at slip when he prodded half-heartedly to a Swann delivery that went straight after pitching on length.
Yuvraj Singh's brief stay at the wicket was cut short by James Anderson, who sent the left-hander's off stump cartwheeling when he couldn't manage to bring the bat down to a ball that kept low. MS Dhoni's dismissal reminded the way he got out in England last year, poking at a length delivery and getting out in the slips. The Indian skipper didn't even trouble the scorers.
Finn continued to get the reverse swing after tea, tempting Virat Kohli (20) to play away from his body and and getting him nick to Prior. He trapped Zaheer lbw to a full delivery. Ishant dug in well but was bowled again by Panesar.
Earlier, after making the short work of England's tail, picking up the remaining four wickets for just 14 runs, India reached 86 for 0 at lunch, still trailing the visitors by 121 runs. Sehwag (49) and Gambhir (33) were at the crease at the break.
Sehwag, who was in visible pain after what appeared to be a knee injury, was spared when he was on seven. He poked at an Anderson length delivery as the ball went between the slips where Swann didn't commit himself to the catch, while Alastair Cook couldn't grab it as the ball went to the fence.
Getting a good start, the Indian openers didn't spare the England bowlers, attacking them with every given opportunity. The two didn't let either Panesar or Swann to set after England, who started the morning on 509 for 6, could only add 14 runs to their overnight lead of 193.
India would have hoped to wrap up the England innings early and Pragyan Ojha provided just that, getting Swann (21) caught at slip by Sehwag on the second ball of the day. Zaheer Khan too got the wicket on his second delivery when Prior (41) prodded at a delivery outside off, giving Dhoni his 200th catch in Test cricket.
Anderson hit Zaheer through covers for four and glided him for a couple through mid-on but was foxed by Ashwin, who had him caught at slip and trapped Panesar lbw for a duck immediately after. Ashwin will be on a hat-trick when he comes on to bowl in England's second innings.