India gave a lesson in how to take a grip on a Test match that was in the balance. Firstly their lower order built a commanding lead of 134, anchored around Ravindra Jadeja’s career-best 90 and Jayant Yadav’s maiden Test fifty, then R Ashwin’s three wickets left England floundering on 78 for 4, still 56 behind.
The runs from the bottom half of India’s order has been a feature of their recent Test success and here they enjoyed one of their more stellar days. In total the last four wickets added 213 to turn a precarious 204 for 6 into a three-figure advantage and it was the first time their Nos 7, 8 and 9 had scored half-centuries in the same innings.
From a position at the start of the day where England would have hoped for something near parity – a manageable deficit around 50 at worst – by the close it felt as though India had made the definite moves of the series. Joe Root, who had been promoted to open in place of the injured Haseeb Hameed, remained unbeaten on 36 but Ashwin’s dismissal of Ben Stokes in the final over capped a perfect day for India.
Alastair Cook’s stay was tortuous. In the space of four deliveries he survived two close DRS calls. The first was an India review for an appeal given not out against Jadeja which was, eventually after some problems forming the HawkEye graphics, shown to be missing leg. The second was after he had been given lbw to Ashwin only for the review to show the ball pitched outside leg. However, the reprieve was brief as Ashwin worked him over by sliding a straighter delivery between bat and pad.
Moeen Ali batted at No. 3, the only spot in the top nine he had yet to occupy in Tests, and added to the list of England’s inglorious dismissals in the match when he chipped Ashwin to mid-on. It was a lovely piece of deception from the bowler, who defeated Moeen in the flight, but regardless it was a limp chip.
Just as Root and Jonny Bairstow were eyeing the close, the latter fell to a catch that, as a fellow wicketkeeper, he would acknowledge for its skill as Parthiv Patel stayed low to take a ball that skidding through low to graze the outside edge. Virat Kohli then pulled one of his Midas touches when he recalled Ashwin in the dying moments of the session and, with his first delivery, he spun one past Stokes’ edge which took the back pad. It was initially given not out by Chris Gaffaney but, with the seconds ticking down, Kohli reviewed and was justified.
India were 12 behind when play resumed and England made an insipid start to the day. Chris Woakes’ opening delivery was a leg-stump half volley which Ashwin clipped to the boundary and Moeen was oddly given two exploratory overs ahead of either James Anderson or Stokes.
Until Jadeja picked out long-on when he tried to up the tempo after tea it had been an innings largely out of character to how he is perceived as a batsman. In terms of balls faced it was the seventh-longest innings of his first-class career and one of his most significant in Tests. Even when he departed the end did not come swiftly for England as Jayant, who played with barely an alarm, ticked over to a 134-ball fifty.
Jadeja only had two previous fifties in Test cricket: his swashbuckling effort at Lord’s in 2014, which helped build a match-winning lead, and a brisk innings against New Zealand earlier this season, which hastened a declaration. This was certainly not a tail-end jolly. On the second evening, after India had suffered a wobble of 4 for 56, Jadeja allowed Ashwin to take the lead and moved to 8 off 34 balls. He then sensed a moment to attack shortly before the new ball, but, on the third day, except for a skip down the pitch against Moeen, he did not attempt anything expansive until taking four boundaries off a Woakes over shortly before his dismissal.
Jadeja’s half-century came off 104 balls and was accompanied by the familiar swordsman celebration but it was the only bat throwing on display. The disappointment of him missing a century meant we did not see what the follow-up would be. Stokes tried to prey on his patience by sending the ball wide outside off, as he had done to Kohli, but Jadeja ignored those balls. He benefited from a bonus four runs when he took a sharp single to mid-on and Jake Ball’s throw was not backed up.
Ashwin had continued to time the ball elegantly until he was lured into a wider delivery by Stokes, in his first over of the day, and spooned a catch to Jos Buttler at backward point to end a stand of 97 with Jadeja. However, Jayant, in so many ways a younger model of Ashwin, from his role in the team to punching deliveries through the off side, collected two sweetly-timed boundaries off Anderson to set him on his way, but there was no hurry from India.
England’s frustrations – and specifically Stokes’ – almost reached boiling point as they worked to break the ninth-wicket stand. Umesh Yadav was dropped on 9 by Cook, to his right at a lone slip, then in the same over Jayant nicked past Bairstow’s right glove, leading to an angered roar from Stokes. But before the over was done, Jayant heaved low to midwicket.
Stokes and Adil Rashid shared the nine wickets taken by the bowlers with Stokes winning the race to a five-wicket haul, his third in Tests, when he removed Umesh. The catch for Bairstow meant he set a new record for wicket-keeping dismissals in a year. It was as good as the day got for England.