India take firm control of second Test after Ashwin and Co wreak havoc
Chennai, Feb 14 (PTI) India took command of the second Test after an exhilarating day two when 15 wickets fell on a rapidly deteriorating pitch with star spinner Ravichandran Ashwin ensuring a massive first innings lead for the hosts with his 29th five-wicket haul, here on Sunday.
Resuming the day at 300 for six, Rishabh Pant took India to 329 in their first innings with an unbeaten 58 before running out of partners.
Ashwin (5/43) and company then bundled out England for 134 on a pitch that is getting more vicious by each passing session. The 34-year-old picked up his second five-wicket haul of the series by uprooting the stumps of number 11 Stuart Broad. By close of play, India were 53 for one in the second innings, extending their lead to 249 runs.
Wickets fell in a heap on Sunday but it was by no means an unplayable surface, as demonstrated by Rohit Sharma on the opening day and with 25 off 62, he was going strong even by stumps on day two. Cheteshwar Pujara (7 batting off 18) was at the other end. However, barring Ben Foakes (42 not out), England batsmen had no answers to the challenge posed by the Indian bowlers. The sweep shot that came to their rescue in much easier conditions in the previous Test, brought their downfall including Root.
So far, the script has played out perfectly for India, who won the all important toss on the opening day and put up a decent enough total on a dustbowl in their bid to level the series.
India, who had taken four wickets in the morning, claimed another four in the post-lunch session to leave England gasping at 106 for eight at tea.
Ashwin added two more scalps to his tally while Mohammed Siraj (1/5), who was introduced as late as in the 39th over, debutant Axar Patel (2/40) and Ishant Sharma (2/22) also did the damage.
Ashwin got the big wicket of Ben Stokes in the sixth over after lunch. The left-hander missed an attempted clip off a beauty that drifted in and lost his off-stump.
Ollie Pope (22), who looked assured against the spinners, was brilliantly caught by a diving Rishabh Pant when he tried to glide one down the leg-side, to give Mohammed Siraj a wicket off the first ball he bowled in Tests in India.
Foakes, who impressed with his keeping skills when India batted, showed his abilities in front of the wickets too. He batted with poise against the spinners, who were looking to make the most of a helping pitch.
Moeen Ali, coming in at number eight, fell when his edge hit Pant's thighs and rebounded to Ajinkya Rahane who took a fine catch diving forward.
Ashwin struck at the stroke of lunch, having Dan Lawrence (9) caught at short-leg by Shubman Gill reducing England to 39 for four.
Ishant provided the first breakthrough for India when he had left-handed opener Rory Burns LBW for a duck with a ball that nipped back and beat his defensive push.
The other opener Dom Sibley (16) was the next to go, caught by Virat Kohli at leg-slip off Ashwin, which was given by the third umpire after India chose to review as the on-field umpire turned down the appeal for a catch.
The big wicket of captain Joe Root (6), who tormented the host bowlers in the first Test, was taken by debutant Axar Patel when the England captain's attempted sweep against the turn landed safely in the hands of Ashwin at short fine-leg.
Resuming the day at 300 for six, India added 29 runs to their overnight score. The aggressive Pant scored 25 of those runs, hitting two fours and two sixes to remain unbeaten.
For England, pacer Olly Stone finished with 3 for 47 in his first game in India. Off-spinner Ali (4 for 128) picked up four wickets but proved expensive Jack Leach (2/78) and Joe Root (1/23) were the other wicket takers.
India lost two wickets in the second over of the day as Ali struck twice in the space of three balls. The England bowlers did not concede a single extra in 95.5 overs, the fourth such instance in Test history.