NEW DELHI, Nov. 28: India capped off yet another day of domination which saw their batsmen and bowlers put up a performance strong enough to push England to a point of no return. After 139 long overs on the field in which India scored 417, England were dented by the loss of four of their top-order batsmen for 78 runs, skipper Alastair Cook included, all but knocking off their hopes of restoring parity.
That all four wickets fell to spin will ring alarm bells in the English camp, who already have struggled on surface that assist spin - Vizag being a prime example. With the Mohali surface beginning to behave like the one in Vizag, all hopes are pinned on the unbeaten Joe Root and the rest to come.
Virat Kohli waited for just three overs before bringing R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja from both ends, and the move worked effectively. England, beginning the innings with their Ashes 2013 combination Cook and Root - following Haseeb Hameed's unavailability after a blow to his right hand - endured difficulty against the spinning ball. Cook's survived two DRS calls - one missing leg, one pitching outside leg before Ashwin finally got the better of him. The very unlike-Cook dismissal saw the ball going through the gate and crashing into the off stump.
Speaking of unlike dismissals, Moeen Ali's scalp was a similar one. He came down the track to Ashwin and chipped one to mid-off. Saviour of first innings, Jonny Bairstow tried to hang in, but Jayant Yadav had him nicking a ball that stayed a tad low and taken smartly by Parthiv Patel. The spinners raced through the overs in the final session, and with 2 minutes remaining, Kohli squeezed in an extra over from Ashwin; and India struck. Ben Stokes was out leg before to a review.
That India attained a first-innings a lead of 134 was due to contributions from their lower order. Jadeja fell 10 agonising runs short of a maiden Test century but not before he had put his team in comfort zone. Jayant then, along with some stubborn resistance from Umesh Yadav added 33 runs for the second last wicket before Stokes returned for an inspired spell to pick up his third five-wicket haul in Tests.
In the process, Jayant scored his maiden fifty in only his third Test innings, following the 35 and 27 he had scored in Vizag. Jayant did not play any extravagant shot, and rather banked mostly on his impenetrable defence to gauge caution. This was also the first occasion where India's No. 7, 8 and 9 contributed with 50-plus scores each.
After Ashwin on Day 2, it was Jadeja's turn to frustrate England. Contrary to the manner in which he bats, this particular innings from him was very different to the rest. There were limited audacious shots and he mostly relied on piercing the gaps while collecting boundaries.
Jadeja took the aerial route to Ali before slipping into a more Zen-like mode. He gave the strike to Ashwin who was connecting the ball well. In between, there was a Chris-Gayle like thump down the ground from him but otherwise Jadeja was careful en route to his second fifty against England. This was also the first time he lasted 100 balls in a Test innings. Stokes appeared threatening for a moment and tried to lure the batsman outside off stump, but a mature Jadeja played no expansive shot.
He went after the English bowlers post lunch. A four-boundary over of Chris Woakes followed with which Jadeja entered the 90s. But a brilliant move from Cook in bringing Adil Rashid into the attack paid off, and Jadeja, going down the wicket, holed out to long-off.
This was India's second wicket to go down in the day. Earlier, Ashwin had edged Stokes to Bairstow for a well-compiled 72 during which he had played some crisp cover-drives. At his dismissal, out walked Jayant and continued his romance with the bat. He stroked two boundaries off one James Anderson over, and one of them included a picture-perfect punch off the backfoot. With Umesh at the other end, Jayant carefully rotated strike, ensuring that his partner wasn't exposed to facing Rashid much.
Cook did not waste much time after Jadeja's dismissal and got his two best bowlers - Rashid and Stokes operating in tandem. Stokes had bowled a probing seven-over spell in the first session and he wasn't any different here. The efficiency with which England pulled things back reflected at the strike-rate of Jayant. He took 132 balls to get to his fifty, while his first 29 runs came at run-a-ball.
England reaped the benefit of an eventful over, which saw two catches going down off Stokes - Cook spilling Umesh and first slip and then Bairstow reacting late to an outside edge of Jayant. But credit must go to Stokes for maintaining composure and foxing Jayant with a slower one next up. Bairstow had Umesh out caught behind to give Stokes his fifth of the innings and with that, broke the record for most dismissals by a wicketkeeper in a calendar year. Stokes and Rashid shared nine wickets.
Brief scores: England 78/4 (Joe Root 32*; R Ashwin 3/19) trail India 417 all out(Ravindra Jadeja 90; Ashwin 72) by 56 runs.(TOI)
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