Indian batsmen, including flamboyant and in-form skipper Virat Kohli, were made to toil hard before Ravichandran Ashwin’s counter-attacking 57 enabled the hosts to reach 271/6 at stumps on the second day of the third cricket Test in Mohali.
India are only 12 runs behind England’s first innings score of 283 after the visitors added 15 to their overnight tally of 268 for eight.
It was an intriguing day of Test cricket and hosts can claim that their nose is slightly ahead thanks to the 67-run stand for the seventh wicket between Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, who also smashed a quick-fire 31 not out off 59 balls.
India’s ‘Man Friday’ was Ashwin, who again played his part albeit with the willow reaching his 9th half-century in Test cricket.
Ashwin’s sequence of scores in the series reads 70, 32, 57, 7 and 57 not out (ongoing). His innings was studded with eight fours off 81 balls. Jadeja’s knock had three fours and a six.
The day’s play can be called a battle of attrition with skipper Kohli curbing his aggressive stroke-play, having read the pitch really well during his patient 62 off 127 balls.
It had nine fours and the partnership of 75 with Cheteshwar Pujara (51 off 104 balls) is the highest in the innings so far.
However, Pujara was out trying to pull a long-hop and Ajinkya Rahane’s (0) wretched form continued.
He failed to read a googly from England’s most successful bowler Adil Rashid (3/66 in 21 overs). Karun Nair (4) also had an inauspicious debut as he was run-out.
Ben Stokes (2/48) was the other successful bowler for England. Knowing Kohli’s propensity to drive through off-side, skipper Alastair Cook removed the slips and packed the cordon four fielders with his bowlers maintaining the channel.
While Kohli got nine boundaries utilising the loose deliveries, England were successful in drying up the runs. Kohli’s battle with Stokes was also another highlight of the day.
At the start of his innings, Kohli hit Stokes for back-to-back boundaries – through mid-off and and a flick off his hips. He also hit some glorious drives of off-spinner Gareth Batty and leg-spinner Adil Rashid.
When Rashid bowled a long hop it was promptly pulled towards mid-wicket fence.
But as runs dried up, Kohli wanted to use the glide shot through the vacant third man region. Stokes did well to pitch it in the channel and the faint edge was taken by Jonny Bairstow.
To make a point, Stokes celebrated the dismissal by making a gesture of ‘sealed lips’ referring that he won’t sledge the Indian skipper.
Stokes has already been reprimanded by ICC for exchanging words with Kohli after his dismissal yesterday.
Post Kohli’s dismissal, Ashwin took up the mantle of scoring runs along and Jadeja, with some lusty blows including a straight six, complemented him well.
During his partnership with Kohli, Pujara also continued his good form en route his 11th Test half-century. He has already scored three hundreds in his last three matches.
The Saurashtra right-hander hit eight boundaries but would have ideally liked to get his fourth straight hundred. Pujara hit Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes for a cover drive each.
A flash over slips also went to the boundary while he used his feet to good effect against spinners. Earlier Parthiv Patel (42) gave a much better account of his batting skills before England successfully used their DRS review off Adil Rashid’s bowling.
Coming back into the Test team after eight years, Patel did not look jittery while wielding the willow compared to his blemishes while donning the big gloves and Indians lost only Murali Vijay (12) during the opening session. In all, he hit six boundaries in 85 balls.
That Patel’s batting has improved tremendously is known to one and all but what was reassuring was the confidence with which he tackled new ball bowlers Jimmy Anderson and Chris Woakes.
A tuck off his hips to the square leg boundary eased his initial nerves. There was a delightful off-drive followed by a thickish inside edge off the very next delivery bowled by Stokes. When Moeen Ali flighted one, Patel was quick to dispatch him through the covers.
The shot of the morning certainly was a push past Anderson that raced to the boundary. It was not even a firm push let alone be called a drive. But the flow in his gentle push was there to be seen.
The wicket certainly eased out considerably although it’s on the slower side. Understanding the nature of the strip, skipper Alastair Cook was seen removing the second and third slips early. The gully was also taken off as the lesser carry meant that balls won’t fly off the surface.
However, the fluent innings was cut short when he tried to sweep Rashid. Umpire Erasmus this time gave not out but the TV umpire ruled it in favour of England, who successfully used the review.
In the morning, Mohammed Shami (3/63) polished off the tail with England managing to add 15 runs to their overnight score of 268 for eight.
At the start of the day, Shami, with the first ball of the second over, got Rashid (4) to nick a delivery that only moved a shade away. He then wrapped it up by getting an in-cutter to trap Gareth Batty (1) leg before.