England face battle to stave off loss

England's captain Alastair Cook is bowled out by India's Ravichandran Ashwin
England's captain Alastair Cook is bowled out by India's Ravichandran Ashwin
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England appeared to be losing their battle to stay in with a chance of series success after Ravindra Jadeja and Ravi Ashwin helped India dominate day three of the third Test

Jadeja (90) and Ashwin (72) responded to India’s collapse to 156 for five the previous afternoon by sharing a stand of 97 on the way to 417 all out - for a lead of 134 - and then the home spinners piled on the pressure in Mohali.

By stumps, England, without Haseeb Hameed to open alongside Alastair Cook because of an injury to his left little finger which will be x-rayed after this match, were still perilously adrift after struggling to 78 for four.

The hosts defied Ben Stokes’ third five-wicket haul in Tests to recover their composure as numbers seven, eight and nine all passed 50 for the first time in India’s history, Jayant Yadav (55) helping Jadeja to add 80 for the eighth wicket.

It all put England in grave danger of a second successive defeat, and a 2-0 series deficit with two to play.

India captain Virat Kohli brought Ashwin into the equation after only three overs of the tourists’ second innings, and it soon became all too much for his opposite number.

Cook did at least account for an India review before what seemed his inevitable departure to Ashwin.

Jadeja turned one too far, missing leg-stump, for Cook to be granted an overturn on nine, and the England skipper survived again to his very next delivery after being given out initially, this time to Ashwin, only for DRS to demonstrate a pitching point outside leg.

The unfathomable aspect of it all was that, for one horribly claustrophobic half-hour at least, the ball was suddenly turning so much more sharply than it had for any of England’s spinners.

Ashwin (three for 19) did finally strike, however, with one that went straight on - through a frazzled Cook’s front-foot defence - and there could be no DRS gambit this time, with middle-stump pegged back.

Six overs later, Moeen Ali’s attempt to counter-attack failed for the second time in the match.

He went up the pitch to Ashwin and only half-bailed out when he was not in the right position, succeeding only in chipping a catch to deep mid-on.

Joe Root had been pressed into service at the top of the order for the first time since he was relieved of that duty after the 2013 Ashes, and he at least stayed until the close, unlike Jonny Bairstow, undone by low bounce from Jayant and a fine catch by wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel.

Then in the final over of the day, Stokes departed lbw to Ashwin and was sent on his way with a predictable finger to his lips by Kohli - reference to the verbal spat between the pair which earned the England all-rounder an International Cricket Council reprimand on day one here.

India had resumed still marginally in arrears on 271 for six but found easy pickings against Chris Woakes, surprisingly bowling in tandem initially with Moeen rather than James Anderson, an odd deployment of a ball only five overs old.

It took the re-introduction of Stokes (five for 73) to break the seventh-wicket stand, the all-rounder striking in his first over, as he had the previous day, when Ashwin drove a wide delivery on the up and was caught at point.

Ashwin had done plenty of damage by then, though, with 11 boundaries in a near three-hour innings which put India back on top in a fluctuating contest.

Jadeja duly completed his 50, moved on to a career-best and was on course for a maiden Test hundred until he got greedy against Adil Rashid (four for 118).

The leg-spinner deserved minor credit for making the left-hander fetch him for an attempted big hit over long-on, where Woakes was characteristically safe under a high ball to end a 170-ball innings which had contained 10 fours and a six.

Umesh Yadav brought up India’s 400 with a slog-swept six off Moeen, and Jayant celebrated by pushing a single in the next over to bring up his first Test 50.

Insult was added to injury, for Stokes especially, when Cook dropped Umesh at slip and then two balls later Jayant edged just out of Bairstow’s reach to go from 51 to 55.

Mercifully for England, Jayant slapped a simple catch to mid-on without addition to go in the same over, and Stokes took his fifth wicket when Umesh edged behind to close the innings at last.