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Cricket: Sharma's reverse gear sparks England slump

Ishant Sharma kick-started a fine display by India's seamers as the tourists maintained their grip on the first Test against England at Trent Bridge.

NOTTINGHAM, United Kingdom: Ishant Sharma kick-started a fine display by India's seamers as the tourists maintained their grip on the first Test against England at Trent Bridge on Friday.

England were 352 for nine in reply to India's first innings 457, a deficit of 105 runs, at stumps on the third day.

After resuming on 43 for one following struggling skipper's Alastair Cook's exit for five on Thursday, England got through Friday's morning session without losing a wicket.

But all that changed after lunch as Sharma, the only member of India's attack to have previously played a Test in England, took three for 29 in seven overs to turn 131 for one into 172 for four.

Significantly, the tall paceman gained a measure of reverse swing that had largely eluded England's seamers as he countered a still-docile pitch.

"I've played enough matches to know what length I need to bowl on, if the ball is reversing or swinging normally," said 25-year-old Sharma, now in his 56th Test.

"I've also been using my experience of playing here before."

Fellow seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar followed up with a quartet of wickets on his way to Test-best figures of four for 61 in 25 overs.

"Bhuvi is a tremendous bowler and used the conditions really well," said Sharma.

Kumar's return came a day after he made his highest Test score of 58 during an Indian tenth-wicket record stand against England of 111 with Mohammed Shami (51 not out) that put the visitors on top.

However, England number 11 James Anderson, whose last innings ended in tears after his valiant effort to hold out for a draw in Sri Lanka's second Test victory at Headingley saw him dismissed off the penultimate ball, then kept Joe Root company for over an hour.

The resolute Root was 78 not out at stumps and Anderson unbeaten on 23, with their last-wicket stand so far worth 54 runs.

Earlier, Root and Stuart Broad (47) had checked India's progress with a rapid eighth-wicket partnership of 78 in 85 balls.

"Broady's innings put all the pressure back on them and a lot of credit has to go to Jimmy at the end, they have given us a great chance to get back into the match," Root said of an England side without a win in their previous eight Tests.

Both Australia-born opener Sam Robson and Zimbabwe-born left-hander Gary Ballance were 59 not out at lunch.

Robson, though, was lbw to Sharma without adding to his score.

Replays suggested a thin inside edge but Australian umpire Bruce Oxenford's decision, given the ball hit Robson's back pad, was understandable.

And with the Decision Review System not being used this series because of Indian objections, it was the end of a second-wicket partnership worth 125.

The umpires changed an out-of-shape ball after 54 overs with England 146 for two.

Sharma struck again with a fine delivery that straightened to have Ballance unquestionably lbw for 71.

Ian Bell, in his 101st Test, looked in superb touch making a 25 that included 24 runs in boundaries.

But he withdrew his bat too late from an attempted cut shot off Sharma and feathered a catch to India captain and wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Moeen Ali, fresh from his maiden Test century at Headingley, turned his head away from a Shami delivery he gloved to Shikhar Dhawan in the slips.

Kumar then rocked England with a burst of four for 16 in 26 balls.

Matt Prior was given out caught behind by opposing keeper Dhoni, standing up to the stumps.

Replays suggested the noise that prompted Sri Lanka umpire Kumar Dharmasena's raised finger had come from the bat hitting the pad but, with no DRS, a disbelieving Prior had to go.

There was no controversy regarding Ben Stokes's exit for a duck when the recalled all-rounder was also caught behind off Kumar.

Broad, who had been severely critical of the state of his Nottinghamshire home pitch, counter-attacked after tea.

To the first delivery with the new ball, left-handed batsman Broad stroked Kumar through extra cover for four as England avoided the follow-on.

But he was eventually lbw to Kumar's well-directed inswinger, having struck nine fours.

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