India took control of the second Test in Chennai against England thanks to R Ashwin, who claimed his 29th five-wicket haul and put the hosts in a dominant position.
India ended the day at 54/1 in their second innings, boasting a lead of 249, after they had bundled England out for 134 earlier in the day. England were replying to the 329 India had posted in the morning, but fell well short of where they’d have hoped to be in their first innings.
India resumed the day at 300/6 but could add only 29 runs to their total, with Axar Patel, Ishant Sharma, Kuldeep Yadav, and Mohammed Siraj all falling in relatively quick succession. However, Rishabh Pant, 33* overnight, did extend his score to 58*, bringing up his sixth Test half-century.
The nature of the pitch ensured the ball was spitting and turning on the very first day, and it only became more difficult for the batsmen on the second. England’s innings was a measure of just how difficult it can be for visiting teams in the sub-continent as they struggled against the duo of Ashwin, the classical off-spinner, and left-arm spinner Patel.
However, the breakthrough came via pace when Sharma had Rory Burns trapped in front with just his third delivery of the match. Dan Lawrence, the new man, immediately shut shop even as Dom Sibley looked to put away a few to the fence. Some extra bounce from Ashwin saw to him though, Sibley getting some glove on an attempted sweep to be caught at leg-slip.
Then came the most crucial blow. England’s best batsman, Joe Root, who had employed the sweep to devastating effect in the first Test at the same venue, perished attempting that stroke this time around and became Axar’s first wicket in Test cricket. At the stroke of lunch, Ashwin, from around the wicket, attacked the stumps and a push from Lawrence ended up with Gill.
Things only marginally improved after lunch. Ashwin had Ben Stokes shot out with a ripper, drifting one on the middle stump and turning it away to take the top of off. However, England found some resistance through Ben Foakes and Ollie Pope, who put on 35 runs for the sixth wicket, England’s best partnership. Their association lasted 15 overs, and frustrated India.
However, yet again, the breakthrough came via pace. Siraj, playing his first Test on home soil, sent down a short one with his first delivery and tempted Pope into playing a false shot. There was a flick and Pant held on behind stumps. England lost their sixth and had just 87 on the board.
Thereafter, with Foakes sealing up one end and keeping the scoreboard moving, England crept past the 100 mark. But wickets were always a threat at the other end. Moeen Ali, Olly Stone, Jack Leach and Stuart Broad all scored in single digits, Ashwin had his five-for, and India had a huge lead of 195.
Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill were in the middle thereafter and were assertive from the off. There were a few occasions when the ball spat off the surface, but the run-rate never suffered, and despite losing Gill – trapped in front by Leach – India saw out the day comfortably and will hope to make the most of their advantageous position on the third morning.
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