India were left a daunting of chasing a world record 420 after England were bowled out in their second innings thanks to Ashwin Ravichandran’s six-for on a sharply turning fourth day strip in the opening Test in Chennai on Monday.
At stumps, India were 39/1, requiring another 381 runs to set a new record and take a 1-0 lead in the four-match series. The previous best is 418, chased by West Indies against Australia in 2003.
Ashwin returned excellent figures of 6/61 to snap England’s second innings at 178 after the home team conceded a massive first-innings lead of 241 runs.
Ishant Sharma had a memorable day too as he reached the 300-wicket milestone in Tests.
With opener Rohit Sharma (12) back in the hut, Shubman Gill (15) and Cheteshwar Pujara (12) will begin the proceedings for India on the fifth and final day at the MA Chidambaram pitch, which has started to play tricks.
India would have been in a bigger hole had it not been for a seventh-wicket partnership of 80 runs between newcomer Washington Sundar (85) and Ashwin, who also contributed a 31 with the bat before picking his career’s 28th five-wicket haul later on.
But despite the duo’s best efforts, the hosts still fell way short of the follow-on target after being bowled out for 337. India resumed the day at 257/6.
Hoping to give their bowlers some respite from the sweltering heat, England decided against enforcing the follow-on and batted again.
But the start wasn’t the one they wanted as Ashwin bowled his off-spinners to deadly effect with the new ball, the bounce aiding him in his endeavour. He removed Rory Burns with the very first ball of the second innings when he induced an edge for Ajinkya Rahane to take an easy catch at first slip.
Having reached 16 off 37 balls, Dominic Sibley was shown the door by Ashwin, with the bounce again helping the off-spinner.
Ishant was rewarded for bowling with a lot of hearth throughout the match when he had Daniel Lawrence trapped in front of the wicket with the one that snaked in. That was wicket number 300 for Ishant, making him the sixth Indian and third pacer from the country to reach the landmark.
Ben Stokes could not replicate the form of his first innings as he played away from his body to give Rishabh Pant a catch off Ashwin.
As wickets kept falling at one end, skipper Joe Root (40 off 32 balls) looked like he was batting on a pitch different from the one where the ball was turning from one end to the other, scoring runs at a quick rate.
Root swept and reverse swept the India spinners, including Ashwin, as runs came at a fast clip when he was in his element in the second session. The first-innings double centurion not just negated but also attacked the spinners with aplomb but what Root could not tackle was a delivery that kept low on landing before thudding against the English run-machine’s pads. The umpire had no hesitation in raising his finger as Jasprit Bumrah appealed for an LBW.
Ollie Pope (28), Jos Buttler (24) and Dom Bess (25) made useful contributions, but England kept batting well into the final session. While 16 wickets fell on the first three days combined, a staggering 15 fell by the wayside on Monday as the Chepauk pitch started assisting spin significantly.
When India came out to bat again, left-arm spinner Jack Leach bowled Rohit with a peach of delivery that landed on the leg-stump before hitting the off-stump, the turn leaving the home team with plenty to worry about going into the final day’s play.
Watch the fall of wickets in England’s second innings:
Watch highlights of Washington Sundar’s impressive innings: