On Valentine’s Day, Ravichandran Ashwin’s (5 for 43) true love for the art of spin bowling blossomed yet again on home soil as India took complete control of the second Test against England.
At the MA Chidambaram Stadium - the venue where he rose through the ranks - on Sunday, wily old fox Ashwin bowled his heart out and got fruitful figures in return. The off-spinner’s 29th five-wicket haul in Tests put India in the driver’s seat, with the host holding a 249-run advantage at stumps on Day Two.
Opening batsman Rohit Sharma (25 batting off 62 balls) and Cheteshwar Pujara (7 batting off 18 balls) stayed undefeated in the second essay for India when the curtains drew to a close at 54 for one. While replying to the home team’s first innings total of 329, England was folded up for a paltry 134 courtesy of Ashwin’s brilliance with the ball.
In the morning session, the tourist had cleaned up India’s tail in a jiffy, bagging four wickets in a mere 7.5 overs. However, the bulk of the day’s action occurred while England tried to put up a fight in testing batting conditions at Chepauk. But, the away side was miserably unsuccessful in its mission as it handed India a 195-run first innings lead on a rank turner.
Crafty customer Ashwin, whose 23.5 overs were a delight to watch for the 14,000-odd spectators, ran through the visitor’s batting line-up that crumbled like a pack of cards. The 34-year-old was well assisted by his spin-bowling colleague Axar Patel (2 for 40), Ishant Sharma (2 for 22) and Mohammed Siraj (1 for 5).
Ashwin was equally effective in both his spells, asking probing questions to English batters. Sharing the new-ball duty with Ishant, the Chennai-based player removed opener Dom Sibley as well as Dan Lawrence and followed the double strike with the dismissal of Ben Stokes. Returning to the attack in the 46th over, Ashwin achieved his milestone by foxing lower-order employers Olly Stone and Stuart Broad. He also ensured India ended each of the first two sessions on top by striking on the stroke of Lunch and Tea.
Meanwhile, debutant Axar couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to Test cricket as the left-arm spinner got big fish Joe Root as his first scalp. England wicketkeeper-batsman Ben Foakes (42 not out off 107 balls) showed resistance, but ran out of partners.
His Indian counterpart Rishabh Pant (58 not out off 77 balls) too encountered the same situation during the first innings. The host could only add 29 runs to its overnight score of 300 for six, with 25 of them coming from the 23-year-old’s willow. Pant also had a field day behind the stumps, taking a couple of blinders.
Off-spinner Moeen Ali was the best of the lot for England in the opening essay, taking four wickets for 128 runs. In India’s second innings, Shubman Gill was sent back to the pavilion for 14, making him the 15th victim of a day that witnessed wickets galore.
Brief scores: India (1st innings) 329 all-out in 95.5 overs (R Sharma 161, A Rahane 67, R Pant 58*, M Ali 4/128); England (1st innings) 134 all-out in 59.5 overs (R Ashwin 5/43, I Sharma 2/22); India (2nd innings) 54 for 1 in 18 overs