A dramatic first session on day four saw five wickets fall as England bowled out India for 337 to establish a first innings lead of 241, then lost Rory Burns to the first ball of their second innings.
The follow-on was available to Joe Root, after Jack Leach (two for 105) and James Anderson (two for 46) picked up two each - their first wickets of the match - to keep the hosts to just 80 additional runs on Monday morning. Washington Sundar was the main scorer, finishing unbeaten on a new career-best of 85 and India’s second-top score. However the 95.5 overs in hot, humid conditions meant they were always going to bat again, not just to top up their lead but allow their bowlers a rest.
In an awkward seven minutes mini-session, off-spinner Ravi Ashwin opened England’s second innings and immediately found the edge of Burns’s bat to Ajinkya Rahane at slip, sending the left-hander back for a first-ball duck. A no ball from Shahbaz Nadeem meant the tourists went into lunch on one for one, 242 ahead.
India began day four on 257 for six, 321 behind but with a blossoming partnership between Washington Sundar and Ravichandran Ashwin. Both more than capable of keeping England out in the field and chipping away at that deficit.
Both spinners hail from Tamil Nadu, who play their home matches in Chennai. They also began their careers as top order batsmen, so it was not too surprising to see them pick up runs with the kind of shots you would not usually associate with a number seven and eight.
They were helped by a wayward start from England, particularly Dom Bess who struggled to pick up where he left off on day three after taking four for 55 from 23 overs. But Ashwin began unfurling some classical drives, while Sundar’s fast hands went through anything full to take the partnership to 80, adding 48 to the overnight score.
By that point they had more or less negotiated a first burst from the second new ball, certainly as far as the seamers were concerned. The over before it became available saw Sundar move from 48 to 52 with a sleek cover drive, his second half-century in Tests.
Root waited until midway through the 82nd over to take it after Sundar punched Archer down the ground for four. The first ball with the harder, more pronounced seam burst through the surface, passing the left-hander’s outside edge.
Jack Leach would be the one to break the stand, the first of his two wickets to help doll up some ugly figures after Rishabh Pant’s 91 featured 48 off 21 deliveries from the left-arm spinner. Extra bounce caught the shoulder of Ashwin’s bat, taken well by Jos Buttler running to point from behind the stumps. Shahbaz Nadeem pushed forward to give Ben Stokes a low catch at first slip.
With two wickets to go and 266 behind, Sundar freed his arms, striking Anderson over the top for six. Anderson then picked up his first of the innings, bouncing Ishant Sharma for fend to Ollie Pope at short leg, at which point Sundar assumed as much of the strike as possible.
Root brought himself on with a few to coaxing an error from Sundar, only to be sent away for four through cover and down the ground for the 21-year-old’s second six to move for 84. A single at the end of the 96th over seemed to have the strike for the next one. Anderson, though, finished the innings off thanks to a brilliant one-handed catch from Stokes diving sharp and low to his right.
Dom Sibley and Dan Lawrence, both scoreless, will return after the break. England will need them both to score quickly as weigh up bumping up their lead and giving themselves enough time to take 10 more wickets. Ideally, they will be looking to have the runs sorted by tea, giving them four sessions at India’s batsman. That was as many as they needed to go through them in the first innings.
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