Visakhapatnam : Ravichandran Ashwin claimed five wickets while skipper Virat Kohli struck a dominant half-century to help India tighten its grip over England on the third day of the second Test in Visakhapatnam on Saturday.
India, who dismissed England for 255 in the first innings, were 98 for three at stumps with Kohli (56) and Ajinkya Rahane (22) at the crease.
With the hosts having stretched their second innings lead to a formidable 298, it will be an uphill battle for England from here on.
It was Ashwin’s 22nd five-wicket haul in 41 Tests that helped India bowl out England shortly before tea and gain a crucial 200-run lead.
“The accuracy that he bowls with is something that is a challenge,” England wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow, who tackled Ashwin’s guile during his fighting fifty in England’s first innings, told reporters.
“He bowled nicely today but we are not going into the fourth innings thinking that we can’t play Ashwin well,” said Bairstow.
England seamers came back roaring as Stuart Broad, who is nursing a foot injury, sent the Indian openers trudging back to the pavilion early in their second essay.
Murali Vijay (3) was caught at gully while Lokesh Rahul (10) was plucked behind as England successfully used the review system on both occasions after the on-field umpire had adjudged the batsmen not out.
Senior pacer James Anderson also swung into action to clean up first innings centurion Cheteshwar Pujara for one, reducing the hosts to 40 for three.
Kohli and Rahane then got together to put up an unbeaten 58-run stand and thwart the persistent bowling attack in the final hour of play.
Kohli, who led from the front with a sparkling 167 in the first innings, recorded his 13th Test half-century as he raised his bat to an applauding home crowd.
Rahane played the supporting role to perfection with his patient 54-ball knock.
– England struggle –
England skipper Alastair Cook juggled with his seam and spin options but failed to make any more headway into the Indian batting.
Earlier Ben Stokes, who top-scored with 70, and Bairstow struck gritty half-centuries to revive England after they resumed on the overnight 103 for five.
“We compliment each other obviously being left and right handed helps. And we rotated the strike pretty well,” said Bairstow.
Bairstow’s knock was cut short just before lunch when Umesh Yadav castled the wicketkeeper-batsman for 53.
Bairstow’s departure ended a 110-run sixth-wicket partnership between him and his overnight partner Stokes who carried on the good work into the post-lunch session.
Ashwin finally trapped the left-handed Stokes lbw and even though the batsman reviewed the decision, the on-field call was upheld by the third umpire.
Adil Rashid scored an unbeaten 32 as Broad also came out to bat with purpose, but the English batting struggled to get close to India’s 455.
Ashwin got Broad (13) and Anderson (0) off consecutive deliveries as the visitors fell one run short of avoiding the follow-on.
“Right now, Ash (Ashwin) is bowling beautifully, like a dream. You have to work on it (drift and spin), it doesn’t just come overnight,” debutant India spinner Jayant Yadav said of his senior partner.
The tourists, who gave India a run for their money in the drawn Test in Rajkot, have struggled against the Indian spinners at Visakhapatnam which is hosting its first-ever Test.