England will require a miracle to avoid defeat after they suffered a nightmare third day in this third Test.
After conceding a first-innings advantage of 134 to India, Alastair Cook’s side then lost four wickets to limp to the close still 56 runs behind on 78 for four.
To add to the sense of gloom, Haseeb Hameed’s series may well be over too, the teenage opener prevented from batting today because of the injury to his left hand sustained following the blow he took from Umesh Yadav on the first day.
Things had started badly when India added 146 runs to their overnight score of 271 for six to make 417 in their first innings.
England’s second innings then got off to the worst possible start when they lost Cook, Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes cheaply.
Hameed’s fitness will be determined by a scan to the little finger on his left hand following this match. By then, though, England will surely be 2-0 down in this series after their loss in Visakhapatnam last week, with defeat here seemingly now a case of when not if.
Any kind of lead would be welcome for Cook and his players at this stage, and with Joe Root, opening for the first time in three years in place of Hameed, unbeaten on 36 overnight alongside nightwatchman Gareth Batty, that is likely.
Yet England will need to establish an advantage of at least 200 to make a game of it in Mohali, something that appears a remote possibility right now. With two Tests remaining in Mumbai and Chennai after this, the tourists would not be out of the series entirely.
But in reality winning just one of those final two Tests against opponents unbeaten at home in four years would represent a major achievement.
India showed just why they are the world’s No 1-ranked team as they ruthlessly exploited a timid England at the start of their second innings.
Cook’s awkward 55-minute stay at the crease included two successful reviews against lbw appeals, one initiated by India and one against umpire Chris Gaffaney. But he still departed for 12 when he was bowled through the gate by Ashwin playing for turn that wasn’t there, England slipping to 23 for one.
Moeen was the next to go, caught by Jayant Yadav after attempting to slog Ashwin. He had made just five.
England were 70 for three when a 31-run stand between Root and Bairstow was ended, the latter edging Jayant behind and falling victim to a stunning catch by wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel.
Stokes then departed in the final over of the day, trapped lbw by Ashwin following a smart review by India.
The way the day ended would have been the worst-case scenario England might have feared when they turned up this morning.
The hope was that they could take India’s final four first-innings wickets within the opening session. Instead, they made heavy weather of their task.
Powered by Ashwin’s third half-century of the series, India had closed to within 12 runs of England’s below-par first-innings total of 283.
And within three overs they had the lead, Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja taking advantage of some loose bowling from Chris Woakes and Moeen.
With the second new ball just four overs old, you have to wonder why Cook waited five overs to bring on James Anderson and even longer to call on Stokes.
Inevitably, Stokes, on for Woakes in the 11th over of the day, took a wicket with his fifth ball as Ashwin, on 72, steered the Durham all-rounder to Jos Buttler at backward point. It ended a 97-run stand with Jadeja that had rescued India from the perilous position of 204 for six following the loss of captain Virat Kohli the previous evening.
However, Jadeja picked up from where Ashwin left off and posted his third Test half-century, bringing up the landmark in 104 balls and with the ‘sword dance’ celebration he first unfurled when scoring his maiden Test 50 against England at Lord’s in 2014.
By lunch India, on 354 for seven, were in complete control, leading by 71 after adding 85 to their total in a forgettable morning session for the tourists.
It proved hard work for England in the afternoon as well, Jadeja passing his highest Test score of 68 – scored in that Lord’s match two years ago – during an 80-run stand with Jayant.
That partnership was finally broken 37 minutes after lunch when Jadeja was caught at long on by Woakes after he tried to launch Adil Rashid into nearby Chandigarh. Rashid’s fourth wicket of the innings was more encouragement for the much-improved leg-spinner and it was a good moment for Woakes too after Jadeja had taken him for 16 runs two overs previously.
India, now 381 for eight, had a lead of 98 but with Jayant making hay in his second Test, England knew their first-innings deficit might be significantly more.
Jayant, whose average climbed up to 112 when he reached his maiden Test half-century, was the ninth India wicket to fall, guiding Stokes to mid-on. Yet England had dropped two catches in that Stokes over, Cook shelling a simple chance to dismiss Umesh Yadav at slip and wicketkeeper Bairstow sparing Jayant.
Those drops cost England eight runs given both deliveries ended up going for boundaries.
England did finally wrap up the innings, though, thanks to Stokes, who in his next over completed his third five-wicket haul in Tests when Bairstow clung on to the edge from Umesh.
This was the first time India’s numbers six, seven and eight batsmen had all scored half-centuries in a Test.
Those lower-order runs left England a long way behind for the second successive Test. They have a lot of work to do to avoid another defeat.Reuse content