Welcome to day three of our live report of the second India-England Test from Chennai. Join us for updates, analysis and colour. You can find our traditional ball-by-ball commentary here
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England 134 and 53 for 3 (Lawrence 19*, Root 2*) need 429 more runs to beat India 329 and 286 (Ashwin 106, Kohli 62, Moeen 4-98, Leach 4-100)
As India flexed their muscle on day three, moving inexorably towards a series-levelling triumph over England, the second Chennai Test began to take on a carnival feel. Already well ahead in the game and with time to indulge, they served up an exhibition for a grateful Chepauk crowd. R Ashwin, the local hero, proved himself worthy of such billing with a fifth Test hundred and England were hanging on by stumps as the ball fizzed and the close catchers circled.
After the subcontinental batting masterclass, followed closely by a trial against spin, now was the moment for England to contend with an Indian wall of sound. Despite scrapping hard to take five wickets during the morning session, they were steadily enveloped by the hoots, whistles and cheers from the stands, as first Virat Kohli and then Ashwin steadied India’s second innings, before the home spinners returned to their task with relish.
Notionally, England needed 482 to win or two-and-a-bit days of rearguard resistance. Practically, they were merely searching for scraps of encouragement with which to accompany them on the road to Ahmedabad.
There could be no more appropriate thala in the home team’s efforts to drive home their advantage than Ashwin. He came into this came having not passed 50 in a Test since 2017, but after taking an aggressive approach from the outset, he eventually reached a raucously received fifth Test hundred during the evening session – achieving the double of a century and a five-wicket haul in the same match for the third time. Just imagine the decibel level if Chepauk had been at more than 50% capacity.
4.45pm: Two in two overs
Poor shot from Rory Burns, caught at slip as he looks to work Ashwin into the leg side, and he has now made 78 runs in his last eight Test innings, dating back to the start of England’s series against Pakistan in August 2020. He’s looked badly out of nick in this series, and will be watching nervously over his shoulder with Zak Crawley likely to be fit for the third Test and Jonny Bairstow back in Chennai. And Jack Leach, in as the nightwatchman, then falls six balls later to the first one he faces: the ball turns from a length, and he can only nudge it to leg gully.
4.35pm: Lawrence lets loose
Dan Lawrence and his #wrists are in the building, and he has whipped Axar Patel for a couple of early boundaries through midwicket. Just as the TV cameras cut to England’s national selector and head coach – Ed Smith and Chris Silverwood – deep in conversation, Lawrence skips down the track and plants Ashwin over long-on. This innings is something of a free hit for him, with Zak Crawley and Jonny Bairstow both ready to return in the third Test – even a half-century might not save his place – and it looks as though Lawrence is not going to die wondering.
4.25pm: So it begins…
First wicket down, Patel strikes, as England’s struggle for opening partnerships continues. Between Sibley, Burns and Zak Crawley, they have managed one stand above 17 across eight innings in India and Sri Lanka this winter. Burns was missed before Sibley’s dismissal, a thin nick that Rishabh Pant put down, but England are at least looking to put pressure back on the bowlers this innings: Burns has swept and left his crease regularly, and Dan “Wrists” Lawrence came down to whip his fifth and seventh balls over midwicket for four.
4.05pm: Blow your whistle
England’s openers are out to face the
music whistles of the Chepauk crowd at the start of their second innings. We’re getting the full effect of India playing in front of their fans here, and Virat Kohli is quick to jump aboard the #whistlepodu express, blowing through his fingers and geeing up the crowd as R Ashwin comes on to bowl. Just a couple of overs from Ishant Sharma and then it looks like it will be an extended audition against spin for Rory Burns and Dom Sibley, with Ashwin and Axar Patel doing the judging.
3.50pm: Delaying the inevitable?
India are in one of the most beautiful positions in all of sport, sitting on a whopping great lead, with two days left in the game, and a battery of well-rested bowlers ready to fight over ten wickets in conditions they know inside out. England, meanwhile, will already be looking ahead – to Ahmedabad, to the pink ball, to two more chances to bite the overdog.
They will have reinforcements for the next game, too, with Jonny Bairstow, Mark Wood and Sam Curran rejoining the party in India. Bairstow spoke to Channel 4 during the tea interval from his windowless room in hotel quarantine, and following a “seven-and-a-half hour bus journey” without stops, on what approach England might take in their second innings in Chennai, having been set a notional 482 to win or two-and-a-bit days to survive.
“Look, I think that it’s naturally going to be tricky. I think chasing over 400 in the final innings is going to be really [tough], but the way in which Ashwin, and Kohli have gone about it in this third innings … granted it has been a third innings where they haven’t really had a huge amount of pressure on them due to the state of the game, but the way in which they’ve gone about it is a really good way to think about it.
“You got to be positive. You got to be positive because on a pitch like this there’s going to be a ball in there for you so I’m sure that the lads have their own game plans, will try and back their defence, back their techniques, but also look to be positive.”
3.40pm: All over
Played on, Stone gets the final wicket. R Ashwin walks off with 99 on his back and 106 to his name, as his India team-mates come down to congratulate him by the boundary’s edge. The Chepauk crowd were loving every minute of that 49-run stand between Ashwin and Mohammed Siraj, cheering dot balls and whistling their hearts out. They know their side are going to win this, the only question is how long will it take?
3.35pm: Ashwin reaps batting rewards
Sidharth Monga writes: R Ashwin spent the limited-overs leg of the Australia tour, which he was not part of, working hard on and frustrated with his batting. He was being left out of the side because of Ravindra Jadeja’s added batting advantage. It was not an unreasonable selection call: there was room only for one spinner in away Tests, and of late Ashwin had made a fast descent from could-be-an-allrounder to is-he-a-tailender zone. Consequenty India’s last four wickets were offering nothing.
Like the earnest competitor that Ashwin is, he felt he needed to prove he was worthy of a place in the side. He would ask batting coaches what he needed to do and tell them he would do it. As it is, he was playing only one format for India, and there too he was at the risk of being limited to Tests in India only. If not for the injury and concussion to Jadeja in the T20Is, who knows if Ashwin would have played the Adelaide Test and got Steven Smith out in the first over to set the tone for the series?
Vikram Rathour, the India batting coach, worked hard with him and after the work also asked him to not worry about the results for a while. In that Adelaide Test, there were signs of the return of Ashwin the batsman when he added 27 with Wriddhiman Saha in the first innings, but again he was part of that horrible collapse in the second innings. In Sydney, though, Ashwin the batsman had announced a full-fledged return with that heroic effort to draw the Test.
In this Test Ashwin has not only put a cherry on the top, he has also taken away any chance the critics of the pitch at his home ground might have. Surely they couldn’t have doctored it to suit both his bowling and batting?
3.18pm: Ashwin does it!
Ashwin gets his hundred, Chepauk gets its moment! There’s a huge smile on his face as the Chennai boy runs through for his fifth Test ton, and first on his home ground (first against anyone other than West Indies, too). After Siraj snuck a single, Ashwin decided not to hang around, nailing a slog-sweep into the stands, poking two through the covers, and then advancing to hack a thick edge over slip and away. Third time he’s taken a five-for and scored a century, behind only Ian Botham. That’s iced the cake for India… would it be asking too much for Ashwin to provide the cherry, as well, with five more wickets in the second innings? Now that really is a select club.
3.08pm: Closing in
England have taken the second new ball, Ashwin is on 87 and the crowd has just cheered Mohammed Siraj through four dot balls against Moeen, so keen are they for the home boy to get to three figures. Do England have a party pooper in their ranks? A fierce cut off Leach and the hard ball flies away to take him into the 90s, but can’t get a single and now Siraj is on strike to Moeen again…
2.55pm: Can Ashwin ton up?
R Ashwin is rumbling on, looking to score a hundred and take a five-for in the same Test for the third time (he’s done it previously in Mumbai and Antigua) – but he’s going to need Mohammed Siraj to hang around and keep him company, after Ishant Shama skied a hack at Jack Leach to be ninth man out. An Ash-ton would go down well at Chepauk, you suspect…
2.50pm: The immutable law of Sod
India 329 and 2 for 8 (Ashwin 68*, Ishant 0*) lead England 134 by 416 runs
India extended England’s period of detention in the field as they reached tea eight down and sitting atop an imposing lead. Virat Kohli and R Ashwin both scored half-centuries during a 96-run stand that kept the tourists toiling through much of the afternoon session.
Ashwin, on his home ground, was the aggressor, outscoring his captain as batting became easier against the softer ball. Kohli was first to fifty, tucking a single off Moeen Ali, and Ashwin got there a few overs later when cutting Olly Stone for four – this was Ashwin’s first Test half-century since 2017, and the sixth time he has done so in the same match in which he claimed a five-for.
Kohli had looked secure as a bank vault, but fell to Moeen for the second time in the match, lbw despite a review. Moeen also removed Kuldeep Yadav to pick up the eighth wicket of his comeback Test, but Ashwin remained unbeaten as India pressed on with plenty of time in which to begin the tourists’ second-innings examination.
If England can take anything from this game (and we await their efforts with the bat second time around), then a proper Test workout for Moeen Ali would be right up there. For the second time in the match he is one away from a five-wicket haul, having trapped Kuldeep Yadav lbw to leave India eight down. Moeen has got through more than 50 overs, as well as dismissing Virat Kohli twice, which ought to do plenty for his rhythm and confidence for the rest of the series. That Kuldeep wicket drew him level with Sydney Barnes for England, and puts him within sight of Jim Laker on 193.
1.34pm: Kohli Mo-ly Part Deux!
What was I saying? The pin-drop moment for Moeen Ali again, as he wins a decision against Virat Kohli! Trapped on the back foot, and up goes Nitin Menon’s finger… Kohli wasn’t convinced, with a bit more justification this time, but ball-tracking upheld the on-field call and India’s captain heads off for a pristine 62. Interesting to note it was Menon who told Kohli off for running on the pitch earlier in the innings, and got a spiky response. One to keep in mind when you’re hoping for “umpire’s call” in future.
The tenor of this contest has changed completely in the hour or so after lunch. India’s lead is approaching 400, the 65 overs-old ball isn’t doing much for the spinners, and England have resorted to Stuart Broad bowling 130kph/80mph legcutters with Ben Foakes standing up to the stumps. It’s impressive skill from both, though kind of sums up England’s failings in this match at the same time.
1.20pm: Very very special
1.05pm: England expects
Time for a chinwag with our England correspondent George Dobell about what’s to be salvaged from a losing cause.
Spoiler alert: England have already lost this Test. But what did you think of their efforts with the ball this morning?
I thought they reflected their efforts throughout: there were lots of good balls but too many bad. India scored more than a hundred in a session. While some of that, no doubt, was due to good batting, there were far more loose balls than India’s spinners will be bowling later in the day. To be fair, Moeen, in particular, has come into this game without the requisite preparation. Sometimes it’s shown. The frustrating thing is that the good balls, from Moeen and Leach, have been very, very good. But life’s not just about what we do, is it? It’s about what we don’t do. And you can’t bowl this many full-tosses and keep a team under pressure.
Moeen’s economy is looking a bit better, and he’ll improve for the workout, you’d think. But the standout performer was the man behind the stumps
I think we sometimes forget what really good wicketkeeping looks like. We’ve been accustomed to lower standards, with teams favouring the ability of keepers to score runs. So Ben Foakes has provided a reminder of the difference a top-class keeper can make. He has been magnificent. And without him, three of those dismissals taken in the first session (the run-out and the two stumpings) probably wouldn’t have happened. Imagine that impact extended over a whole series. And it wasn’t just against the spinners: he stood up to Stuart Broad, too. And he was England’s top-scorer in the first innings. It’s absurd he isn’t in the side as a first choice.
Speaking of his batting… What sort of approach should England take when their turn comes? They have a snowball’s chance of chasing/blocking for two days, but there’s the rest of the series to think about
I’m not sure about the idea that you have to take ‘an approach.’ You bat. And part of batting, is playing the ball on its merits and earning the right to face the poor ball. The one thing we have seen is that batting gets easier. If they can get through the first 25 overs, the next 55 will be more comfortable. So Sibley and co just need to bat. There’s no hurry. Yes, you might want to hit the bowler off their length, but you have to be aware that, with the ball bouncing more than normal, the top-edge is a major risk. And you have to be aware that singles and strike-rotation can be as effective as boundaries. Virat is providing a master-class in all this at present. Let’s be clear: England have hit the iceberg in this game. They are going down. But it is an opportunity to learn against this attack going into the second half of the series. If the want an example, consider the Alastair Cook century in Ahmedabad in 2012. Sure, England lost. But it sowed the seeds for the victory in Mumbai.
12.57pm: Allrounder Ash
And that’s a half-century for R Ashwin, too, from just 64 balls! He gets there with a crabby cut for four as Olly Stone tries to rough him up with short stuff. Sixth time he has scored fifty and taken a five-for in a Test, behind only Ian Botham and Shakib Al Hasan. Nice touch at the end of the over as he raises a hand to the crowd and gets the love right back… The going has been easier since lunch, Inda’s seventh-wicket stand once again emphasising that batsmen can succeed on this surface.
Shiva Jayaraman writes: “If anyone is wondering why Virat Kohli and R Ashwin have looked more comfortable against spinners than the other batsmen earlier in the day: this pitch has offered more to spinners when the balls has been relatively new. In the first 30 overs with the new ball, spinners have taken 12 wickets in the match at an average of 17.58 runs per dismissal. After the 30th over, they have managed just eight wickets at double that average, of 35.62 (till the 56th over of India’s second innings).”
And when you lose five wickets before the 30th over, as England did in their first innings, it can make it pretty hard to compete.
12.36pm: Kohli fifty
Virat Kohli has raised his bat for the second time in the series, this time with a crowd in to acknowledge his efforts. His focus has been unbreakable as India push England deeper into the dirt, mixing ironclad defence with the occasional flourish – a rattling on drive against Leach before lunch stood out, and he has also unfurled the cover drive off Moeen’s bowling again, confident that it won’t bring his downfall after shifting his guard across to face the offspinner. The middle session has tended to be quieter in this Test so far, and Kohli won’t be giving it away when there are runs (and psychological points) to be scored.
12.25pm: Jolly good Foakes!
Isn’t it nice to have spectators at the game?
India 329 and 156 for 6 (Kohli 38*, Ashwin 34*) lead England 134 by 351 runs
Five wickets fell during the morning session on day three at Chepauk as India built themselves a comfortable cushion ahead of an expected trial by spin for the tourists. England scrapped valiantly, with two wickets apiece for Jack Leach and Moeen Ali and some fine work behind the stumps by Ben Foakes, but they were left staring at an nigh-insurmountable deficit as Virat Kohli guided his side to lunch six down.
England claimed a wicket in the first over the day, Cheteshwar Pujara slightly unfortunate to be run out after trying to regain his ground only for his bat to get stuck in the pitch. Foakes then pulled off a brace of stumpings to remove Rohit Sharma and Rishabh Pant, before Moeen had Ajinkya Rahane caught at short leg and Axar Patel lbw. But R Ashwin played positively, with liberal use of the sweep, to score 34 from 38 and add an unbroken half-century stand with his captain that swelled India’s lead above 350.
11.20am: Chennai of the tiger
Virat Kohli has played with steely intent in India’s second innings – no chance of him getting bowled playing an expansive drive this time around. He took 20 balls to get off the mark (and off a pair) but has looked virtually impregnable since, which is quite something on this surface. With R Ashwin playing his shots at the other end, India have pushed their lead on towards 350. Stuart Broad has just surfaced with the ball for the first time since day one, bowling with Foakes standing up to the stumps, only to see Ben Stokes put down a sharp, reaction chance at slip off Ashwin.
11am: This one’s a keeper
‘I want the batsmen to know that if they leave the crease, they’re gone’
Since we’ve been treated to a display of slick glovework behind the stumps from an English wicketkeeper, here’s one of the all-time great stumpers, Sarah Taylor, speaking to ESPNcricinfo a couple of years ago.
10.45am: Moeen strikes
Axar Patel is next to go, with India’s lead a tick above 300, and Moeen Ali has now picked up six wickets on his return to Test cricket after 18 months out of the side. He spoke before play today about how he thought he had bowled “better as the days wore on” and his enjoyment at bowling Virat Kohli for a duck in the first innings: “Pretty happy with that wicket.” He also said that England would need to keep fighting, despite facing defeat in this game, with two Tests still to play.
“It’s been tough. You never want to make excuses. But I haven’t played any games. Training has been difficult as I ripped my finger a few weeks ago, so I couldn’t really bowl too much in the build up to the game. When you play games you get better. Bowling in the nets is completely different to bowling in games and being under pressure. I felt like it’s got better as the game has gone on.
“We just need to fight. It’s going to be tough for us to win or even draw the game. It doesn’t mean we’re going to give up. We need to take the game as long as we can. Put in a performance we can take into the next game. We need to show some fight with the ball and the bat. The toss is massive here. The different between the sides was Rohit’s innings. It was fantastic and he took the game away from us.”
10.20am: Moving on, moving on
England have their fourth wicket of the morning, Ajinkya Rahane caught at short leg by the diving Ollie Pope. That’s the seventh time Moeen has dismissed Rahane in Tests, second only to Nathan Lyon. India, though, are sitting on a 280-plus lead and might already be thinking about how quickly they can finish England off…
10.15am: Foakes hero
Birthday boy Ben Foakes is doing his best to blow out India’s candles on the third morning in Chennai. He now has two stumpings to go with a run-out, and the last of the three was the best of the lot – unsighted after Rishabh Pant charged down at Leach, only for the ball to go explode off the surface and beat his wild swing, Foakes collected down the leg side and applied the rubber stamp with the efficiency of a post office clerk. He missed one yesterday, but now has three stumpings in the match – the first time an England wicketkeeper has done so in men’s Tests since Alan Knott in 1968. The man Foakes replaced in the side for this match, Jos Buttler, has one stumping in 30 Tests as keeper (completed last month in Galle).
9.45am: And heeeerrrre’s Rishabh
This time the third umpire sides with Foakes, as Rohit Sharma is stumped after dragging his back foot just over the line (pulling down Rohit’s home Test average to a mere 80.52). Excellent hands from Foakes, who turns 28 today and has earned himself an extra slice of cake – the delivery from Jack Leach came through at almost shoulder height, but the keeper took it and smoothly whipped off the bails in one movement. India’s response to two early wickets has been to send in Rishabh Pant above Ajinkya Rahane, to take the attack back to England.
9.35am: Heeeerrrre’s Virat (on a pair)
It’s been hard enough for most batsmen on this pitch, but Cheteshwar Pujara has lost his wicket in most unfortunate fashion to start the day, run out in the first over by short leg after dropping his bat trying to regain his ground. Although, as Sunny Gavaskar has just said on commentary (with tongue firmly in cheek), “you have to blame the pitch” after Pujara’s bat jammed into the crease line but not over it, with Ben Foakes collecting Ollie Pope’s throw to break the stumps before the lunging batsman could get his foot back. Time for India’s captain to have another crack.
#PoliteEnquiries: Is this a four-Test series or four-toss series?
What better way to start the day than a fresh, hot injection of George and Raunak into your eyeballs?
9.20am: Signed, sealed… delivered?
Hello again, folks. Day three is often moving day of a Test – but you sense this one has already unloaded the van and is getting comfy in its new surroundings. Pretty much everything India have touched has turned to gold this time around in Chennai, and they will be backing themselves to wrap up a series-levelling win at some point later today or tomorrow. England, barring Headingley-plus-plus miracles, know this game is probably beyond them… but there’s still a series to fight for, battles to be won and lost.
Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick