India have continued their march towards a series-levelling victory after Ravichandran Ashwin’s scintillating century on a turning track flattened England in the second Test.
England are chasing a record 482 for an improbable victory but they endured a top order collapse to finish day three on 3-53 on Monday, still 429 behind at Chennai’s MA Chidambaram Stadium.
Joe Root was batting on two at close while Dan Lawrence was on 19 with England, who managed just 134 in their first innings, risking a defeat inside four days.
The nature of the spin-friendly pitch dominated discussions on the first two days but home captain Virat Kohli and Ashwin showed how to master suck tracks as India posted 286 in their second innings.
Resuming their second innings on 1-54, India lost five wickets in the morning session with Ben Foakes spending a busy 28th birthday behind the stumps.
Foakes ran out Cheteshwar Pujara in the very first over in a bizarre dismissal.
Having stepped out to defend a ball, Pujara was trying to make his ground when he jammed his bat on the crease and lost his grip. Foakes whipped off the bail before Pujara could get his foot back in.
The wicketkeeper then pulled off two sharp stumpings off Jack Leach (4-100) to send back Rohit Sharma and Rishabh Pant.
Ajinkya Rahane did not last long either but Kohli forged a 96-run partnership with Ashwin to steady the innings.
The India captain curbed his natural free-flowing game, rarely playing his trademark cover-drive, during his patient knock of 62.
Moeen Ali (4-98) dismissed Kohli for the second time in the match but Ashwin kept going at the other end.
Batting with number 11 batsman Mohammed Siraj, Ashwin smacked Moeen for a six to reach 97, took two runs off the next delivery, and followed it with a streaky four to reach a hundred in front of delirious fans at his home ground.
“We had a very, very good day. I think we posted a really good score. Now we can really attack with men around the bat,” Ashwin said.
This was the third time Ashwin, who claimed 5-43 in England’s first innings, scored a century and took five wickets in the same Test.
The 34-year-old is second only to England great Ian Botham who managed the feat on five occasions.
Ashwin’s 106, his fifth Test century, included 14 boundaries and that six.
On his return to the field, the off-spinner claimed the wicket of Rory Burns while Axar Patel dismissed Dom Sibley and nightwatchman Leach.
England spin coach Jeetan Patel said the tourists would stay positive when they return on Tuesday.
“We’ve got strokemakers in the group, we want them to keep expressing themselves,” said the former New Zealand spinner.
“I think it’s been one of the strengths over the three Tests we’ve played so far in the sub-continent.”