Birmingham, Aug 13 (IANS) The No.1 Test ranking is slowly slipping out of India's grasp after Alastair Cook fell six short of triple century and took England to a mammoth 710 for seven declared in the first innings on the third day play of the third Test at the Edgbaston here Friday.
India, who were bowled out for 224 in the first innings, started their second innings on a disastrous note after Virender Sehwag fell for a king pair but Rahul Dravid (14) and Gautam Gambhir (18) played cautiously as the visitors reached 35 for one at stumps.
India trail by 451 runs and with two days left, the countdown has started for England to become the No.1 Test side. The win will also give England an unassailable 3-0 lead in the four match series and dislodged India from the top spot that they have held tightly for close to two years.
Cook's effort, a marathon 803 minutes, was the longest by an England batsman and he surpassed Ken Barrington's 256 in 683 minutes. Only Len Hutton has batted longer, during his 364.
Cook's measured 294, that took more than 13 hours and with 33 fours was his highest Test score and bettered his previous best 235 not out against Australia in Brisbane last year. With Eoin Morgan (104), Cook stitched 222-run stand for the fourth wicket that agonised the Indian.
England, who resumed at overnight 456/3, scored 254 runs in the day losing the wickets of Morgan (104), Ravi Bopara (7), Matt Prior (5) and Cook while Tim Bresnan remained unbeaten on 53.
After going wicketless at lunch, England lost three in the second session, but Cook stood rock solid and England reached 646/6 with Cook looking set for a triple century.
Suresh Raina had Morgan caught at cover, breaking the 222-run partnership between Cook and Morgan.
Leg spinner Amit Mishra then trapped Bopara leg before and dismissed Prior, who top edged a slog sweep and was well caught by Sachin Tendulkar.
Cook, however, batted with resolve and surpassed his best of 235 that he scored against Australia in the Ashes last year.
Morgan scored his second Test century after the 130 against Pakistan last year. He played 199 balls and struck 11 fours.
India were listless on the ground and hardly looked the No.1 Test team.
Resuming at 456/3 and 232 runs ahead of India, England added 47 runs in 18 overs after a delayed start and early finish to the first session due to rain.
Praveen Kumar again bowled with a big heart and got good purchase from the conditions. Praveen bowled six overs giving only 12 runs.
Cook got to his double century, his second of the career, with a clip of his leg off S. Sreesanth and continued to dictate the bowlibng.