For a second day in succession, local hero Ravichandran Ashwin (106 off 148 balls) was the cynosure as India continued to call the shots in the second Test against England at the MA Chidambaram Stadium here.
Following a fantastic five-wicket haul on Day Two, Ashwin turned his bat into a magic wand on Monday, giving the Chepauk crowd their money’s worth with his fifth Test ton. Making full use of the three lives that were handed to him during India’s second innings, the 34-year-old struck 14 fours and a maximum on his way to a well-compiled century.
Ashwin also silenced a few experts, who have been constantly moaning about the 22 yards, by playing a fine knock on a challenging centre strip. Riding on his hundred, which was a huge hit among the home fans, India posted 286 runs in its final essay and set England a gigantic target of 482.
In the hunt for an improbable victory, the tourist was tottering at 53 for three when Day Three concluded. However, it was England that got off to a dream start in the morning session. In fact, the host was punished for its adventurous approach after continuing on its Sunday night score of 54 for one.
Much to the delight of the visitor, Cheteshwar Pujara (7), Rohit Sharma (26), Rishabh Pant (8) and Ajinkya Rahane (10) had short stays in the middle. Debutant Axar Patel’s time at the crease wasn’t long either as he was dismissed for seven by Moeen Ali (4 for 98), who missed a fifer for a second time in the ongoing Test. With the scoreboard reading 106 for six, Virat Kohli (62 off 149 balls) and Ashwin took matters into their own hands with a 96-run stand for the seventh wicket. After struggling to get off the mark, the India captain went on to churn out his 25th fifty in the longest format.
But, Kohli, whose knock included seven boundaries, was trapped in front of the wicket by Moeen in the 66th over. While Kuldeep Yadav (3) and Ishant Sharma (7) also perished soon after, Mohammed Siraj (16 not out off 21 balls) stuck around to help Ashwin reach the feat. When No.11 Siraj walked in to bat, his partner was 23 runs away from a well-deserved ton. But, Ashwin eventually completed his century with a fortuitous boundary over third-man as both players punched the air in delight.
That was the moment of the day since Siraj celebrated the milestone as if it was his very own. After combining with the tailender for 49 runs for the final wicket, Ashwin, who escaped defeat when he was at 28, 56 and 70, fell to Moeen. Birthday boy Ben Foakes had a mixed day, being at the centre of stunning stumpings and missed chances.
Facing a daunting task in its final innings, England lost three quick wickets in Rory Burns, Dom Sibley and nightwatchman Jack Leach. At close of play, the away team was 53 for three, with India left-arm spinner Axar (2 for 15) bagging two scalps.
BRIEF SCORES: India (1st innings) 329 all-out in 95.5 overs; England (1st innings) 134 all-out in 59.5 overs; India (2nd innings) 286 all-out in 85.5 overs (R Ashwin 106, V Kohli 62, M Ali 4/98, J Leach 4/100); England (2nd innings) 53 for 3 in 19 overs