Rishabh Pant of (WK) India stamps out to Dan Lawrence of England during day four of the second PayTM test match between India and England held at the Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India on the 16th February 2021. Photo by Pankaj Nangia/ Sportzpics for BCCI
India are just three wickets away from victory in the second Test after reducing England to 116 for seven on the fourth morning.
Two wickets from Ravichandran Ashwin, and one each for fellow spinners Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav, accounted for four batsmen for the addition of just 63 runs. Joe Root remains, 33 from 90 deliveries, no doubt due to end as the standout man in a sorry second innings.
England resumed on 53 for three, their target of 482 for the win and the prospect of two days batting to draw both equally as unlikely on this pitch, which many felt would never take the game to a third day, never mind a fourth.
And beyond the seven wickets needed for India to win, there was history in the horizon for Ashwin. His century on day three of 106 out of the second innings of 286 saw him become the second player to score a hundred and take five wickets in three or more Tests. With that five for 46 in the first innings, and Monday evening’s dismissal of Rory Burns, Ashwin arrived into Tuesday just four dismissals from being the fifth player to score a hundred and take 10 across a game.
Number seven arrived when the fourth England wicket, Dan Lawrence, having imposed himself on India’s bowlers to return overnight on 19, was given a bit back at the start of the 26th over. Using his feet to get down the pitch throughout his innings, Ashwin spotted him go early and slid one down the leg side, short of a length, from over the wicket. Lawrence’s attempt to get his pad in the way meant he ended up being nutmegged.
It required Rishabh Pant to scuttle to his left, collect the ball and then dive back to the stumps to affect the stumping, as Lawrence turned back to dive in vain. England were 66 for four and India were off and running.
That meant Joe Root, who resumed his innings on two, was joined by Ben Stokes at the crease. And the responsibility on captain and vice-captain, not to mention two of the side’s best players of spin, was to at least see out what remained of the session.
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The pair were able to stay together for 77 deliveries – the 28 runs redundant – until Ashwin registered his third from around the wicket to snare Stokes for the second time in the match. The left-hander played for turn, pressing forward in the defence, only for the ball to go on with the arm and clip the inside edge of his bat onto his right thigh to balloon to Virat Kohli in close at gully.
Stokes was visibly disappointed, 51 balls of graft coming to an unfortunate demise. As a batsman who can absorb ridiculous amounts of pressure, it felt like an end had opened up. And while Ollie Pope was energetic for his 12, one shot too many saw him top-edge a sweep to Ishant Sharma running in from deep-ash square leg.
There was some English fortune. Root, looking to tick over with runs, hit a reverse sweep off Kuldeep Yadav straight to Mohammed Siraj at point. Root bowed his head in dismay and so missed an awful drop. It was particular blow for Yadav, brought into the XI for his first Test since January 2019 and bowling just six overs in the first innings without success.
He would finally register in his seventh Test by accounting for Ben Foakes. The wicketkeeper has been England’s standout player across these few days, performing immaculately behind the stumps and top-scoring in the first innings with 42. But when the left-arm wrist spinner served up a full toss, Foakes could only guide the ball to Axar Patel who was lurking in front of square on the leg side.
A tame end to the session, with a tamer end to the match expected in due course to square the four-match series.
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