2ND TEST, DAY 3 HIGHLIGHTS: ASHWIN'S 106 PUTS ENGLAND ON THE MAT; CAN INDIA EQUALIZE TOMORROW?
Ravichandran Ashwin's jaw-dropping 106 and Virat Kohli's fighting 62 in the second innings paved India's way to a daunting lead of 481 runs against England on Day 3 of the second Test in Chennai. England, chasing 482 for a win, lost three crucial wickets for just 53 runs with Skipper Joe Root standing alone at the crease, following the wicket of night watchman Jack Leach in the last ball before Stumps.
Ashwin has become the only player from India to now have three instances of a five-wicket haul and a century in the same Test match. He had earlier done something similar against the West Indies in Nov 2011 (103, 5-107) and July 2016 (113, 7-83). He currently stands third in the list of chronology, with Vinoo Mankad (184, 5-196) and Polly Umrigar (172*, 5-107) achieving the feat in the years 1952 and 1962 respectively.
India, earlier on Day 3, had a nightmarish start as Cheteshwar Pujara (7) and Rohit Sharma (26) departed early. Pujara's dismissal was bizarre as he failed to make his crease after losing the grip of his bat. Rohit fell to some smart gloveswork by Ben Foakes behind the stumps. Wickets fell thick and fast as Rishabh Pant (8), Ajinkya Rahane (10) and Axar Patel (7) could barely provide any support to Kohli. At one point India were 106-6.
Once Ashwin stepped in, the face of the match changed. Runs started to flow. The home boy perhaps knew how to deal with the dust and patches. He, drove, he punched, he swept and none of the England bowlers had any answer to Ashwin's flamboyance. He first stitched a 96-run stand with Kohli and followed it up with a 49-run stand with Md Siraj (16*), which in the meantime brought up his 5th Test century as well. Siraj played a crucial supporting role to take India to 286.
Talking after the match Ashwin said, "The last time I was sweeping, I was just 19 years old. I hit a couple of sweep shots and got dropped from the side and never played a sweep for the last 13-14 years. I have been practising that shot only for a week to 10 days and I'm very very thankful that the plan has paid off."
The turf has been predictable so far, spinning and bouncing. Despite some rough patches, we haven't seen much of uneven bounce yet. It remains to be seen how the Day 4 pitch behaves and whether India can wrap it up to equalize the tournament tomorrow itself.