IND vs ENG: Washington, Ashwin shine but England on top

Set a target of 420 after trailing in the first innings by a massive 241, India lost Rohit Sharma. At stumps on Monday, the host was 39 for one at Chepauk.

Ishant Sharma brought one back into Dan Lawrence for his 300th Test wicket.   -  BCCI

Washington Sundar delighted with an exhibition of high-quality batting in the morning, timing the ball like a dream on a challenging surface. He belongs to this stage.

Then, the wily R. Ashwin bowled with craft, exploiting a wearing surface, harnessing the angles, getting the ball to turn and bounce, and finishing with six wickets even as the Englishmen, seeking quick runs, adopted a confused ‘start-stop’ approach.

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Despite the double punch from the Chennai duo on home turf - Washington made 85 not out and Ashwin grabbed six for 61 - England held the aces going into the final day.

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Set a target of 420 after trailing in the first innings by a massive 241, India lost Rohit Sharma, bowled by left-armer Jack Leach. The delivery pitched middle, turned, and hit off. At stumps on Monday, the host was 39 for one at Chepauk.

When England batted again, Ashwin struck with the innings’ first delivery, spinning one away from left-hander Rory Burns after drawing him forward.

He went round the wicket, spun one, and got Dom Sibley, taken at leg-slip. The new ball had extra bounce. And southpaw Ben Stokes edged a sharply turning delivery from Ashwin to ‘keeper Rishabh Pant who pouched a sharp catch. Pant ‘kept much better than in the first innings, standing up on a pitch of variable bounce.

Only the in-form Joe Root stroked with any fluency for his 40 before he was trapped leg-before by a Bumrah delivery that kept low. Ishant Sharma had earlier brought one back into Dan Lawrence for his 300th Test wicket. There were more wickets for Ashwin as England failed to achieve the desired acceleration.

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Washington fights back

In the morning, Washington held centre-stage. On view were poise, balance and a distinctive quality some left-handers possess - lazy elegance.

It’s a lot about picking the length early and making subtle adjustments in footwork that creates more time for the batsman and makes his response appear relaxed and languid.

He possesses a pronounced back-lift but the bat, importantly, comes down straight. A forward press Washington has, but can so easily shift his weight to his back leg.

And then, he has the gift of timing. On occasions, he appeared to be just pushing the ball but the ball raced to the fence. Crucially, his head position is still - an indication of the distribution of weight - as he strokes the ball.

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He opened the field on the off-side with the ball’s length dictating his footwork. When Dom Bess pitched short, he went back and smoked him through cover point. When he bowled fuller, Washington eased him off the front foot.

And he hit Leach past covers to reach his second half-century in only his second Test. When the speedy Jofra Archer came on, he was straight driven with panache by Washington.

And after being beaten by the clever James Anderson, Washington responded with a compelling straight six. Washington and Ashwin (31) added 80 crucial runs for the seventh wicket; Ashwin drove handsomely.

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Leach, bowling with the harder second new ball, took out Ashwin with extra bounce; ‘keeper Jos Buttler diving forward to snaffle a fine catch. Even as Washington stroked with consummate ease, Leach and Anderson cleaned up the Indian tail.  

The final day should be a gripping affair.

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