England facing second Test defeat as India dominate in Chennai
England were heading for seemingly inevitable defeat in the second Test against India after being outplayed with bat and ball in turning conditions on the second day in Chennai.
After dismissing the hosts for 329 in the first hour Joe Root’s side were taken down for just 134, their lowest ever first-innings score in India.
Only Ben Foakes was able to negotiate fiendishly difficult conditions against a quality attack led by the relentless Ravichandran Ashwin, with his 42 not out ensuring England could not be asked to follow-on.
But a 195-run lead placed all the cards in India’s favour and they finished the day 249 in front after reaching stumps on 54 for one.
The nature of the pitch continues to generate plenty of heat among fans and pundits, but after six sessions it was beyond argument that the hosts had used it more productively.
India ended day one on 300 for six and proceeded to lose their last four wickets for 29, Moeen Ali and Olly Stone sharing the spoils. The majority of the runs came from the bat of Rishabh Pant, who eventually ran out of partners on 58 not out.
Moeen took two wickets in his first over of the day, the first with a good piece of bowling to beat Axar Patel’s edge but an even better piece of wicketkeeping to have him stumped. Foakes followed the turn well then seamlessly flicked the bails as the batsman’s momentum drew him forward.
Two balls later there was a less edifying spectacle as Ishant Sharma spooned a full toss straight to short mid-wicket.
With Pant getting warmed up it took Stone’s introduction to bring a swift conclusion, with both Ishant and Mohammed Siraj nicking behind. The clatter of wickets will not have eased the minds of the English openers and neither Rory Burns nor Dom Sibley survived the new ball.
Burns managed only three deliveries before Ishant had him lbw from round the wicket, clipped in front of leg stump for a third duck in his last five outings.
Sibley started more convincingly, scoring each of the first 16 runs, before an attempted sweep off Ashwin bumped the back of his bat on its way to an animated Virat Kohli at leg-slip.
With first-innings knocks of 228, 186 and 218 to his name in the last three Tests, Root’s arrival carried unreasonably high expectations. For the first time this year, he fell well short.
Having profited handsomely from his arsenal of sweeps in recent weeks, he paid the price for mis-timing one with just six to his name. The England captain knew from the moment of contact, a top edge that looped obligingly to short fine-leg and gave Patel a memorable debut wicket.
Dan Lawrence lasted 52 balls for his nine but it was a tortured existence and came to an end off the last ball before lunch as Ashwin kept the close catchers in business. From 39 for four, things took a further turn for the worse when Ben Stokes was comprehensively bowled by the classy Ashwin.
Beaten through the air and off the pitch, he paid with his off stump and shook his head in dismay before making his way.
England found a shred of respite in a 35-run stand between the Surrey duo of Ollie Pope and Foakes, who showed solid techniques before Pope was brilliantly caught down the leg-side by Pant.
That gave Siraj a wicket with his first ball on home soil and ruined England’s only burgeoning partnership.
Hope faded fast before the tea break as Moeen was caught at slip, via an outside edge into the keeper’s thigh and Stone chipped Ashwin loosely to short midwicket.
Foakes continued to leave a positive impression in his first Test knock for two years, navigating the total just past the follow-on mark before India finished things up.
Pant managed his second brilliant catch after Leach nicked Ishant behind and Ashwin wrapped a five-for by castling Stuart Broad for a duck.
England’s struggles were put into stark relief as the Indian openers made use of their heavy lead to attack with relative impunity. Shubman Gill and day one centurion Rohit Sharma took 35 from the first seven overs, as if to defend the wearing pitch from any incoming criticism.
Gill did not last, lbw to Leach as he picked out an attacking line and got one to straighten, but Rohit made it to the close after giving up a tough stumping chance.
Even Foakes could not make the most of it as the ball ripped past leg stump and England left the pitch at stumps with several mountains to climb.
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