Joe Root led a belated fightback on day three of the first Investec Test to limit the damage caused by another dreadful afternoon collapse.

However, his England side remain a long way off their target of salvaging the Test against India in Nottingham.

Having bemoaned the lifeless nature of the pitch during two long days in the field, yesterday the hosts were unnerved by Ishant Sharma three-wicket burst which caused England to lose six for 74 between lunch and tea. The prospect of failing to meet the follow-on target loomed large until Root dug in at the stumps to ensure that England were still scrapping 105 behind on 352 for nine.

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The Yorkshireman batted with impressive resolve to make 78 not out, conjuring a stand with Stuart Broad (47) and an unbroken last-wicket partnership with James Anderson worth 54 runs. Should the pair be parted early today, England will still be left with a sizeable deficit and guarding against defeat, even though could have been so much worse.

The home side staggered to tea at 205 for seven having started the session 131 for one, with Sam Robson (59) and Gary Ballance (71) appearing to be largely untroubled. Ravindra Jadeja's left-arm spin came closest to changing the pattern, with Robson turning him to leg slip only for Virat Kohli grassed a sharp chance.

In total, England added 88 before lunch as Ballance struck six boundaries in 17 balls. However, the tone shifted dramatically in the afternoon as England's calm accumulation gave way emphatically; Robson becoming the first to fall, two overs in, when Ishant persuaded umpire Bruce Oxenford to award lbw.

The Indian continued to trouble the hosts and earned another lbw decision when Ballance was trapped in front. England looked vulnerable at 154 for three and Ishant seized his moment, dismissing Ian Bell next. He has been the middle-order prize since Kevin Pietersen's sacking. It seemed a curious wicket too, since Bell shaped to cut a short ball before running it straight to the wicketkeeper, having made an abortive attempt to pull out of the stroke.

Root and Moeen Ali consolidated briefly before England faltered once again, with three wickets in only 10 deliveries. A bouncer struck Moeen on the hand to be caught by Shikhar Dhawan at slip; Matt Prior went out controversially after Bhuvneshwar Kumar appeared to miss the bails; and Ben Stokes nicked his second ball for a duck. Indeed, Broad was very nearly caught for a duck before the break.

The Englishman made a show of aggression when he returned and battered Shami's first ball for four, setting the tone for a stand of 78 in 85 balls alongside Root. The Yorkshireman had been hanging on as wickets tumbled around him but Broad's carefree knock, including a series of flowing drives through cover, seemed to liberate him.

He might have been stymied when Kumar pinned Broad lbw three short of his half-century and bowled Liam Plunkett, but No.11 Anderson would provide solidity and five unexpected boundaries. Root is now in pursuit of his fourth Test century.