Ravichandran Ashwin was the star for India on day two and it was no different a day later, only this time, it was with the bat. After taking a five-wicket haul on Sunday (14 February 2021), the Chennai all-rounder – playing at his home stadium – notched up his fifth Test century on Monday (15 February 2021) to put India in complete control of the ongoing match against England at Chepauk.
INDIA LOSE FLURRY OF WICKETS EARLY ON
It seems like Cheteshwar Pujara can't help himself when it comes to unfortunate dismissals. On this occasion, he was run-out for seven after his bat got stuck in the ground as he was scrambling back to the crease after the ball had gone to forward short leg. While he was unlucky on this occasion, since his debut in 2010, no batsman has been run-out more times than Pujara (9) in Tests.
It's Ben Foakes' birthday and, while he did some good work on Pujara's dismissal, he was even better when it came to stumping Rohit Sharma. Jack Leach bowled a magnificent delivery that beat the outside edge of Rohit's bat and Foakes wasted no time in disturbing the bails.
Foakes wasn't done yet as he pulled off another excellent stumping to send Rishabh Pant back to the pavillion. Pant was sent up the order seemingly to unsettle Leach and, in an attempt to take the attack to the England left-arm spinner, he came down the track but failed to make any contact. It was a difficult take for Foakes as the ball spun greatly, but he made the process look easy. Meanwhile, just like what had happened with Pujara, Pant's bat also got stuck in the pitch, but it wouldn't have mattered in any case as he was well short of the crease.
Geez, how brilliant is Ben Foakes #INDvENG— Adam Gilchrist (@gilly381) February 15, 2021
Ajinkya Rahane's stay in the middle didn't last long either as he was dismissed by Moeen Ali, with Ollie Pope taking a good diving catch at forward short leg. The England off-spinner then took his second wicket of the innings, dismissing Axar Patel leg-before-wicket (lbw) as India were reduced to 106/6.
KOHLI, ASHWIN EXCEL ON A TRICKY PITCH
Virat Kohli and Ashwin then combined to put on a 96-run partnership which ensured that the hosts found themselves in a fabulous position in this match. It's definitely not the easiest of tracks to bat on as Kohli discovered during the first innings when he was dismissed for a duck. The Indian captain, though, came back strongly, notching up a superb half-century in the second innings. Kohli batted with a control percentage of 87.2, the best among any batsman in an innings in this game.
At the other end, Ashwin was also playing a brilliant knock. In fact, it was particularly impressive how the India all-rounder was batting at a brisk pace, which resulted in him reaching his fifty in 64 deliveries – a splendid effort on this pitch.
Stuart Broad was unlucky in this innings. While he didn't bowl much, there were two catches dropped off his bowling, both of Ashwin. The first one was a straight forward chance for Ben Stokes at slip, but the second one was a difficult one for Foakes who was standing up to the stumps.
Moeen, meanwhile, took the wickets of Kohli and Kuldeep Yadav, but with India's lead crossing 400, the game was firmly in India’s grasp.
While Ishant Sharma was dismissed by Leach for seven, Ashwin and Mohammed Siraj put together an entertaining 49-run partnership for the 10th wicket, with the former reaching a memorable hundred. Considering the nature of the pitch, this was quite an extraordinary knock from the 34-year-old. This is the third time that Ashwin has scored a century and taken a five-wicket haul in a Test, with only Ian Botham (5) having done so on more occasions.
The aforementioned 10-wicket stand propelled India to a total of 286 before Ashwin was bowled by Olly Stone for a fantastic 106, thereby setting England a target of 482.
AXAR STRIKES TWICE LATE IN THE DAY
Such a fourth innings run-chase was never going to be easy for the visitors and so it has proven thus far as they have lost three wickets for 53 runs. Dominic Sibley was the first to be dismissed, lbw for three by Axar. The hero of the day, Ashwin, then took the wicket of the other opener Rory Burns who had got a start -- it was a typical Ashwin dismissal, where he found the outside edge of a left-handed batsman's bat before the catch was completed at second slip by Kohli.
With only a maximum of four overs left in the day, England decided to send in Leach as a nightwatchman. But the 29-year-old couldn't repeat his heroics from the Lord's Test against Ireland in 2019 when he had scored 92 while playing a similar role, albeit he was opening the batting then – not to forget, very different opposition and conditions too. After bowling 33 overs in India's second innings, Leach’s stay in the middle lasted just one delivery as he became Axar’s second wicket of the innings.
In the last over of the day, Joe Root was fortunate to survive a close lbw referral. While the on-field umpire gave the decision in his favour, it looked like the decision would have to be overturned after the initial replays. But it was umpire's call on impact and the England captain survived. His opposite number, Kohli, wasn't best pleased which led to an animated discussion with the umpire.
To say England have a tall task ahead of them would be an understatement of epic proportionals. They head into day four on 53/3, with Daniel Lawrence and Root in the middle.
(Image Courtesy – BCCI)