Ravichandran Ashwin scored 14 fours and a six in his 148-ball innings, his fifth Test century
|Second test, Chennai (day three)|
|India 329 (Rohit 161, Moeen 4-128) & 286 (Ashwin 106, Moeen 4-98, Leach 4-100)|
|England 134 (Ashwin 5-43) & 53-3|
|England chases 482 to win|
A century before local hero Ravichandran Ashwin, England accumulated misery in the second Test against India in Chennai.
Ashwin made 106 and split 96 with Virat Kohli, who scored 62 to bring India to 286 in their second inning.
Ashwin lived on the 28th, 56th, and 70th. For the third time in his career, he added a hundred to his five-wicket turn. Only the great Sir Ian Botham did the feat more often in tests.
Hire a fictional 482 to win on a field that often explodes when the ball lands. England lost three wickets in 19 possible overs on the third evening.
After Dom Sibley switched to Axar Patel, Rory Burns pushed Ashwin down the gully and night watchman Jack Leach dropped the first ball as the tourists ended up dropping to 53-3.
With so much time left in the game, a tie is out of the question and the four-game series will be equated to 1-1 in the third day-night test in Ahmedabad on February 24th.
India shows the way
For two days now, the pitch has been the subject of much debate – whether the excessive supply at the start of the game is suitable for test cricket.
Even taking into account India’s lead gained by winning the throw, the main reason they dominated the first two days was their superior performance, and they rammed their advantage home to give wider context to Monday’s conditions give.
Even if England’s weirdos played bowling – Leach and Moeen Ali shared 14 wickets – they could not exercise the same control as their Indian counterparts, as bulk deliveries were seldom far away.
With the bat, Ashwin and Kohli have shown that runscoring is possible – especially against the older, softer ball – if batsmen find a way to get in.
As if to emphasize England’s shortcomings, Sibley only had three to his name when attempting to work Axar on the leg side and was noticeable on the leg before.
Burns showed admirable intent in his 25 years, but made the mistake of closing Ashwin’s face to provide a leading edge and exposing Leach, who tossed Axar leg slide.
Ashwin inspires the local audience
At the start of the day with India 54-1 and 249 in front of them their control was nearly complete, but England were still able to reduce it to 106-6 through the bowling of Moeen and Leach and the brilliant wicketkeeping of Ben Foakes.
At this point, Chennai-born Ashwin Kohli joined. The skipper was already showing a greater focus than in the first innings when he was embarrassed by Moeen.
When Kohli showed solid defense, sweet timing, and crisp footwork, Ashwin met more fluently and regularly swept down the road to half a century from just 64 deliveries.
He was dropped by Ben Stokes in front of Stuart Broad, and Foakes was missing a thick edge of the same bowler standing on the stumps. Ashwin could have been caught and blunted by the same Moeen shipment just for Foakes to fumble.
Kohli’s discharge, lbw, again to Moeen, was Ashwin’s signal to move on. On the 77th, when he was accompanied by the last man, Mohammed Siraj, he rushed through the 90s with a mighty slog sweep for six in front of Moeen.
As the crowd cheered on every delivery Siraj survived, there was a breakout when Ashwin got Moeen to go on three pieces, and after playing on Olly Stone to become the last man to fall, there was more Delirium removing Burns.
England continues to fight
After two days, England could do little more than hold out and hope for improvements that will serve them well for the rest of the series.
Aside from Ashwin’s reparations, Foakes created moments of brilliance with the gloves on. In the morning alone, he played a role in Cheteshwar Pujara running out of the short leg and then blunted Rohit Sharma and Rishabh Pant to become the first English goalkeeper to pass three stumps in a men’s test since 1968.
Off-spinner Moeen, who has been playing his first test since August 2019, has gradually found a rhythm to take eight wickets.
The all-rounder Stokes only bowled two overs in the match, although England have no fitness concerns.
England can hardly afford to miss so many opportunities – four in all, with Joe Roots late fall from Siraj, though partly due to the fatigue of spending most of the day in the sun.
Dan Lawrence deserves credit for the way he fought 19 while Root survived Axar’s next LBW ratings in the final of the day.
“It was not a good week for England” – as they said
BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew: “England are lucky enough to have only three to be honest.”
Former England captain Michael Vaughan on The Cricket Social: “There isn’t much that England can take positively. You just have to try to beat as long as you can and hope that one or two people get good results.”
“It’s been a bad week for the English team but in the end it takes you a day or two to take a breather and then realize they are 1-1 in a four-game series.”
Jeetan Patel, spin bowling consultant in England: “We have to stay positive. We have stroke makers on the team and we want them to keep expressing themselves. If we sit there and try to defend ourselves for two days, we won’t have much success.”
“I’m not going to say we will win this game, but we will shake a stick.”