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Mike Atherton says England's middle order, and deteriorating pitch, has put them in strong position in third Test in Kolkata

Athers - Vital few days for India

Pietersen: he and his middle-order colleagues scored briskly on day three

Mike Atherton told Sky Sports News that some aggressive middle-order strokeplay has put England in with an excellent chance of seizing victory in the third Test against India in Kolkata.

Alastair Cook (190), Nick Compton (57) and a returning-to-form Jonathan Trott (87) built a solid platform in the visitors' first innings as they chased down the Indian tally of 316.

However, Kevin Pietersen (54), Samit Patel (33) and in situ batsmen Matt Prior (40) and Graeme Swann (21) plundered the boundary as the day drew to a close and England reached 509-6 stumps, 193 runs ahead of MS Dhoni's charges.

"England's middle order will give you the odd chance, but they will score quicker."

Mike Atherton

"Nobody makes batting look as secure as Cook at the moment, while Trott played well, too, but England's middle order are of a slightly different type," said the Sky Sports pundit.

"They will give you the odd chance, but they will score quicker - and that's how England played at the backend of the day. They played breezily and put on 128 in the final session and gave themselves a chance of winning in the game."

Thrilled

On captain Cook, who added 54 runs to his overnight score before being run out by Virat Kohli, Athers added: "He carried on from yesterday but was perhaps not quite as fluent and appeared to be running on his last reserves.

"It was shame he didn't get to a double hundred; he looked absolutely disconsolate when he got out but after 1160 balls he is allowed one lapse of concentration!"

England now have two days left to defeat India and take a 2-1 lead in the series ahead of the fourth and final contest which begins in Nagpur on Thursday, December 13 - and Atherton belives the bowling strip will aid them in their quest.

"England will be thrilled to be in this position, especially having lost the toss; the three days couldn't really have gone any better," said the former England skipper.

"They batted superbly and have an excellent lead, while the pitch has started to deteriorate a little bit - one or two balls have kept low and there has been a bit more turn for the India spinners - and so England will feel they have plenty of time left (to win)."

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