When the third play's began at Edgbaston, the game was very much in the balance. Talisman off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin gave an early fillip to India by providing them with the vital scalp of Joe Root. However, a rare period of calm ensued as Jonny Bairstow and Dawid Malan swelled England's lead to 83 whilst losing just three wickets.
Time and again, India have squandered golden opportunities to seal Test victories away from Asia. Having to bat last on what was beginning to feel like a dicey track, their fortunes appeared to hinge precariously.
The hosts were looking to build a valuable partnership to put pressure on the Indian bowlers. Just when his team needed him to step up and lead their hopes, Ishant Sharma came up with a magical spell to break open the game.
Very much a rhythm bowler, Ishant got into the groove by reducing Malan into an unenviable position. He operated from around the wicket and got one to straighten. Ajinkya Rahane, at gully, did not make any mistake this time around.
Ishant over wrecks England's middle-order
Utilising all his experience, Ishant maintained his stranglehold on the England batsmen. Runs were hard to come by as the tall seamer's lengths made him quite difficult to target. With Bairstow decidedly trying to keep the scoreboard moving and the counterattacking Ben Stokes joining him in the middle, something was about to give.
The 31st over of the innings saw Ishant scything through England's formidable middle-order. After sliding one towards the leg-side, he unleashed a well-directed in-swinger from the good length area. The wider angle from over the stumps meant that Bairstow was sucked into drawing at it. A nervy Shikhar Dhawan accepted the opportunity at first slip.
Jos Buttler got off strike in the next ball. Switching to around the stumps for the left-handed Stokes, Ishant procured the outside edge by getting the ball to move a fraction from middle-stump. The extra bounce, a by-product of the quickening surface, combined with the awkward angle to surprise the southpaw.
For long, India's slip-catching remained a major obstacle to their aspirations. Sensing the rhythm that Ishant was in, Kohli smartly moved himself into the cordon. He dived low in order to pouch a crucial catch at third slip. England entered the lunch interval at 86/6. The lead stood at a mere 99 runs.
Sam Curran's single took the hosts' lead into the three-figure mark. India could not breathe free yet as the dangerous Jos Buttler was still in the equation. A quickfire cameo could have turned the game on its head once again.
But the day seemed to belong to Ishant as struck the decisive blow in the final ball of the eventful over. With negligible feet movement, Buttler wafted at a back of length delivery. The wobbling seam coerced the edge from the right-hander. Dinesh Karthik, who had endured a disappointing time behind the stumps, completed the chance.
On either side of lunch, England had slipped from 84/4 to 87/7 in the space of six manic balls. Ishant's triple-wicket over was nothing short of sensational. It will become historic if India go on to seal victory at Birmingham.Published 03 Aug 2018, 19:22 IST