India have two days to take seven England wickets and get back to parity in the all-important second Test of the four-match series, with a place in the finals of the ICC World Test Championship at stake.
A large reason for India to be in the commanding position they are in is R Ashwin. Having taken a brilliant 5/43 on the second day, Ashwin scored a sensational century – his first in his home ground – and shored India up with a partnership of 96 with captain Virat Kohli.
Ashwin’s 106 ensured England were set a mammoth 482 to chase on a pitch becoming increasingly difficult to bat on. The visiting batsmen came out with intent, and battled for 19 overs, but were reduced to 53/3 by stumps.
India have bowled well to leave England stuttering on 53/3 at the end of day three.— ICC (@ICC) February 15, 2021
They need seven wickets, while England need 429 more to win!#INDvENG ➡️ https://t.co/DSmqrU68EB pic.twitter.com/s7km9iiGUm
India resumed the day at 54/1 but lost a flurry of wickets in a difficult first hour. In the middle of it all, was Ben Foakes behind the stumps. His expert technique meant he made wicketkeeping look easy on a surface on which it was anything but.
The first to fall was Cheteshwar Pujara, in a rather unfortunate manner. Having pinged one to short leg, Pujara dropped his bat in an effort to return to the safety of the crease, by which time the fielder had found Foakes, who whipped off the bails.
Three overs later, Rohit Sharma, whose assertive century in the first innings laid the foundation for India, was stumped off Leach, Foakes displaying lightning hands to catch Rohit off. The dangerous Rishabh Pant stepped out to take Leach on but was undone by a sharp turner, with Foakes doing brilliantly to take it down the leg and disturb the stumps.
Vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane didn’t last long either, scoring a 14-ball 10 before falling to Moeen Ali, an inside-edge lobbing off the pads to the fielder. India were 86/5, and their hopes of building a daunting lead took a hit. Within six overs, Axar Patel had been trapped in front by Ali too, and it was just Kohli holding up one end, desperate for a partnership.
England would have thought they had India on the mat, but Ashwin came in and gave the hosts the solidity they needed. And he adopted a vastly different approach to Kohli’s – he was assertive, employing the sweep to put the bowlers off their lines, and when play was stopped for lunch, Ashwin had scored 34, with Kohli on 38.
On resumption, they carried on. The duo brought up their half-centuries within an hour, and India soon crossed 200, their lead extending past 400. In the second half of the session, the breakthrough came, when Kohli, having scored a terrific 62, was trapped in front by Ali. India immediately looked vulnerable, with Kuldeep Yadav following suit shortly, and early in the final session, Ishant Sharma walking back.
Ashwin was left with Mohammed Siraj, playing his first Test in India, for company when he was within reach of a fifth Test century. He farmed the strike, took on the bowlers – he even swept a six – as the crowd cheered loudly every ball Siraj survived. When Ashwin finally got to the mark, it was pure adulation. He was dismissed for 106 thereafter, but India were in a commanding position.
The England batsmen opted to go after the bowlers right from the off. Rory Burns found the fence four times, but Dom Sibley at the other end was trapped in front by Axar for three. Dan Lawrence walked in and managed to find the fence a few times as well, including a six, but Ashwin was at it again, looping one into Burns to claim the edge.
When Nightwatchman Jack Leach was dismissed in the next over, the momentum from England’s quick start was fully drained. The task awaiting the visitors now is daunting – two full days left in the match, and they have just seven wickets in the bag. India are primed for victory.
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