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India - England Series

Ashwin hits century as India near victory in second Test



Photo: Collected

|| AFP ||

Ravichandran Ashwin hit a sparkling century and took a key wicket Monday to edge India closer to a series-levelling victory in the second Test against England, who face a daunting target of 482 to win.

The tourists, who lead the four-match series 1-0, were struggling at 53 for three at stumps on the third day in Chennai. 

Dan Lawrence, on 19, and skipper Joe Root, on two, will resume batting Tuesday on the turning pitch.

Left-arm spinner Axar Patel took two wickets including Dom Sibley, for three, and Jack Leach, who was sent in as nightwatchman, for nought.

"There is spin on offer but it depends how much speed you hit (as a spinner). Bowling slow is not helping," Patel told reporters.

Pundits have criticised the pitch at M.A. Chidambaram Stadium with former England captain Michael Vaughan calling it a "Chennai beach".

But Patel said no one should have reservations about the pitch.

"When we go outside India and get seaming tracks, we don't say that the pitch has too much grass. People should change their mindset," he said.

England spin coach Jeetan Patel said the team will not throw in the towel.

"We have got to keep staying positive. We have got stroke makers in the group and we want them to keep expressing themselves," said the former New Zealand spinner.

"I am not going to say we are going to win this game but we are going to shake a stick at it."

Following up on his five wickets in the first innings, Ashwin got Rory Burns caught at slip for 25 to take his match tally to six.

Ashwin scored his fifth Test century and first against England before India were bowled out for 286 in the final session.

Spinners Moeen Ali and Jack Leach claimed four wickets each.

England have been battling to avoid defeat since a first innings collapse on the second day, and will have to mount a record run chase to secure a miracle victory.

Freak run out

The Chennai-born Ashwin survived reprieves on 28, 56 and 70 runs. 

He then got to his hundred with an edge to the boundary, which was met by loud cheers from the home crowd.

He put on a 96-run seventh-wicket stand with skipper Virat Kohli, who made 62 before falling to Ali's off spin.

Ashwin got help from number 11 Mohammed Siraj to get to his century as they put on 49 runs for the final wicket. Olly Stone bowled Ashwin to end India's innings.

"I don't know when I will play my next Test here, but I'm very pleased," said Ashwin.

"I was just telling Siraj to look at the line of the ball and go wherever he wants. It was a funny thing and it was exciting to see how he (Siraj) celebrated and that says a few things about the dressing room."

Resuming the day on 54-1, India lost five wickets in the morning session with Ali and Leach combining to do some damage.

Cheteshwar Pujara went for seven after a freak run out when his bat jammed behind the crease while attempting to get back following a flick to short leg.

Sharma, who made 161 in India's first innings, added one to his overnight 25 before being stumped by wicketkeeper Ben Foakes off Leach.

Foakes, who celebrated his 28th birthday on Monday, was in action again to send back his Indian rival Rishabh Pant, stumped for eight off Leach again.

The stadium witnessed a security breach in the lunch break when a boy walked onto the ground from the stands near where players from both sides were practising. Security guards escorted him away.

Fans have been allowed to watch the second Test action live in Chennai, the first time that has been permitted at a stadium in India since the coronavirus pandemic hit.