England are heading for a heavy defeat in the second Test after closing day three in Chennai on 53-3 having been set 482 to win by India after Ravichandran Ashwin’s superb century.
Ashwin (106 from 148 balls) scored a ton and claimed a five-for in the same game for the third time in his Test career – a record only bettered in the format by England legend Sir Ian Botham, who achieved the feat five times.
The 34-year-old – who had bagged 5-43 in England’s first innings of 134 – was the last man out for India as they were dismissed for 286, with Ashwin having sealed a 134-ball, fifth Test century on his home ground.
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The off-spinner then added to his wicket tally by having Rory Burns (25) caught at slip, while Axar Patel ousted Dom Sibley (3) lbw and had nightwatchman Jack Leach (0) caught at leg slip first ball.
Things could have been even worse for England but captain Joe Root (1no) survived an lbw review off Axar – the decision sticking with the umpire’s call of not out on impact as Root remained with Dan Lawrence (19no).
India now seem certain to record a series-levelling victory, having been thumped by 227 runs in the first Test at the same venue a week ago, with the four-match series set to be all square heading into the day-night third Test at Ahmedabad from Wednesday, February 24.
Ashwin – who added 96 with captain Virat Kohli (62) for the hosts’ seventh wicket after they had slipped to 106-6 in a five-wicket morning session – was India’s man of the day, albeit after being dropped on 28, 56 and 71.
But Ben Foakes was England’s on the day he turned 28, despite offering Ashwin two of those lifelines, with his glovework majestic in the main, including brilliant stumpings of Rohit Sharma (26) and Rishabh Pant (8).
Foakes, into the side with Jos Buttler rested for the remainder of the series, claimed a number of exceptional takes and even stood up to seamer Stuart Broad during a masterclass behind the stumps.
The Surrey star should still have a role to play with the bat but England coming out of this game with anything other than a defeat appears a forlorn hope on a pitch offering extreme assistance to the spinners.
Ashwin and Kohli – the latter rebounding from a first-innings duck with a 25th Test fifty – dealt with the conditions well, meaning England went 29 overs without a wicket having bagged five in the first hour and 15 minutes.
Cheteshwar Pujara (7) was the first to go, run out after getting his bat stuck in the ground and then failing to get his foot over the line as he tried to return to his crease having clipped Moeen Ali (4-98) to short leg.
Ollie Pope hurled the ball to Foakes, who whipped off the bails with Pujara short, and the wicketkeeper then quickly became the star of the session, with his two superb stumpings off the bowling of Leach (4-100).
This is an absolute master class from Ben Foakes behind the stumps 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 #INDvsENG
First, Foakes grabbed a ball at shoulder height and removed the bails after Leach’s delivery had turned and bounced past a lunging Rohit.
The birthday boy then produced an arguably even better piece of glovework, gathering past leg stump and breaking the wicket after Pant had advanced to Leach and been beaten on his inside edge as he slogged.
Foakes’ tally of stumpings in the game moved to three – he removed Axar in similar style in the first innings – making him the first England wicketkeeper to tot up as many in a match since Alan Knott in 1968. Buttler, in contrast, has managed just one stumping in his Test career.
Axar (7) and Ajinkya Rahane (10) were then out to Moeen, lbw and caught at short leg respectively, as India lost five wickets for 52 runs having begun day three at MA Chidambaram Stadium on 54-1, with a lead of 249.
Ashwin and Kohli rebuilt for India, with the captain – who brushed Burns’ fingertips at extra-cover when he had just two runs – largely putting the sweep aside but Ashwin using it to good effect.
The partnership was finally snapped when Moeen removed Kohli for the second time in the game – this time lbw after bowling him first time around – and the England spinner soon trapped Kuldeep Yadav (3) leg before as well, before Leach had Ishant Sharma (7) caught on the sweep.
India were nine down at that point with Ashwin, then on 82, in danger of missing out on a century.
But Ashwin – dropped by Ben Stokes at slip off Broad in the morning, and then by Foakes one time apiece in the second and third sessions – did score his first Test ton against a team other than West Indies.
The Chennai local cut Leach for four to move onto 91 before slog-sweeping Moeen over midwicket to reach 97 and then edging the same bowler over the slip cordon to bring up three figures as the home fans went wild.
There was still time for Mohammed Siraj (16no) to tonk two sixes, in between being dropped on nine at midwicket by Joe Root off Leach, before Ashwin dragged Olly Stone (1-21) onto his stumps to end the innings.
Then it was over to India’s spinners to turn the screw further, with the home side now requiring just a further seven wickets for victory and the tourists a highly improbable 429 more runs.
Follow text commentary of day four of the second Test between India and England in Chennai on skysports.com and the Sky Sports app from 3.50am on Tuesday.
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