Team India had close to a perfect day on Monday, with the side now just 7 wickets away from a win in the second Test against England. On a frantic day which saw 12 wickets fall, England ended the day at 53/3. The visitors need a mammoth 429 runs to win, and only something special can prevent India from leveling the series at 1-1.
From Ravichandran Ashwin’s stunning hundred to Virat Kohli’s gritty defiance, several moments stood out during Day 3.
Here are the top 3 talking points, as Team India pegged England back further on a dominating day in Chennai.
Ben Foakes' wicket-keeping is an art
Ben Foakes is widely regarded as England’s best gloveman. He doesn’t play for England more often just because England prefer Bairstow and Buttler's batting abilities.
But in Chennai he time and time again showed why his wicket-keeping skills are a treat to watch. His unconventional wicket-keeping style was on full display on Day 3, as he grabbed the limelight from behind the stumps.
He first stumped Rohit Sharma in the morning, his lightning-fast hands reminiscent of MS Dhoni’s glovework behind the stumps. If his first one was special, his second stumping of the day was outstanding. Rishabh Pant danced down the track and missed the ball completely, and Ben Foakes had the bails off even before the left-hander could react.
Ben Foakes was later seen standing up to Stuart Broad and did better than most have in the past in that role. Although he dropped a catch during the stint, he proved his credentials with a very confident display.
The English keeper has kept admirably on a crumbling pitch in Chennai despite not playing for England in over 2 years. He passed the test with flying colours, while also gaining numerous admirers along the way.
Ravichandran Ashwin, the all-rounder rises for Team India
Ravichandran Ashwin has already made a mark with the ball this series. He picked up 9 wickets in the first Test and started the second with a fifer.
However, he made the list today because of his batting efforts, which have all but won Team India the Test. The off-spinner came in when Team India were 106/6, a bit confused about how to approach their 2nd innings.
While Virat Kohli played with patience at the other end, it was testament to Ravichandran Ashwin’s knock that the 34-year-old matched his skipper stroke for stroke.
Ashwin scored at a good click all innings and negotiated the turning wicket with confidence. His understanding of the conditions while batting was there for everyone to see, and his experience of bowling on the track helped him considerably.
Ravichandran Ashwin scored a ton and picked up a five-wicket haul in the same Test for the 3rd time in his Test career, and is now 2 behind Ian Botham on that list. His century against England was also his first ton against a side not named West Indies and will do his confidence a world of good.
His celebration made it clear how much a ton at his home ground meant to him, and Ravichandran Ashwin once again looks like the Test all-rounder he showed glimpses of being back in 2016 for Team India.
The pitch isn’t as bad as it’s been made out to be
There’s no doubt the Chepauk track for the 2nd Test is a rank turner. Puffs of dust have been practically flying up from ball 1, and the roughs have transformed into craters over the past 3 days.
But to call it unplayable and unfair on India’s part is preposterous. Subcontinent pitched are known to be big turners, and Chennai has a long history of producing pitches that grip and bounce. Also, preparing a pitch favouring slower bowlers is the same as preparing one with a green top to aid a side’s pacemen.
Irrespective of the surface, Team India, and at times even England, have shown that batsmen get their due if they play the conditions right. Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane did it for Team India on Day 1.
Ben Foakes, and to a certain extent Ollie Pope, did the same for England. And on Day 3, Virat Kohli and Ravichandran Ashwin showed how digging your heels in, using your feet and making full use of the crease can help one negotiate the wicket’s turn.
Team India’s second innings lasted 26 overs more than England’s first. It yielded runs at 3.33 runs per over compared to England’s 2.24. It came on a pitch that had deteriorated further than when England were batting, once again proving how Test cricket rewards skill no matter the conditions.
It is time for the critics to accept the conditions, and instead focus on how England failed to adapt to them, rather than continue blaming the surface for their failures in the 2nd Test.