Third Test: Ashwin's three strikes put England on backfoot (Roundup)
Mohali, Nov 28 (IANS) India's premier off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin led from the front, claiming three wickets to reduce England to 78/4 at stumps on day three of the third Test at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) I.S. Bindra Stadium here on Monday.
After conceding a 134-run lead in the first innings, England lost their top order -- skipper Alastair Cook (12), Moeen Ali (5), Jonny Bairstow (15) and Ben Stokes (5) -- in quick succession, to still trail by 56 runs.
Joe Root, who opened the innings in place of injured Haseeb Hameed, was unbeaten on 36 along with night-watchman Gareth Batty (0) when the umpires removed the bails for the night.
Coming out to bat in the post-tea session after bundling India out for 417 in their first innings, England found the going tough on a pitch which gradually came to the Indian spinners' assistance.
Trailing by 134 runs, Cook with make-shift opener Root batted cautiously for the initial few overs but the southpaw's 49-ball stay was soon ended by Ashwin, who managed to break through his defence.
Cook's wicket brought in Moeen Ali, whose struggle with the willow continued as Ashwin bamboozled him with a flighted delivery -- and fellow offie Jayant Yadav pouched him with ease at mid-on.
Struggling at 39/2, England promoted Jonny Bairstow to No.4 for the first time in his career but the stumper too departed after forging a brief 31-run third-wicket stand with Root.
Bairstow's wicket belonged more to wicket-keeper Parthiv Patel, who took a brilliant low catch off Jayant, when the English right-hander went back into the crease only to end up nicking it behind.
Ashwin then returned to take the wicket of danger-man Ben Stokes, who found himself squared up by a delivery pitched on the off and middle stump.
The controversial Decision Review System (DRS) came to India's rescue by ruling Stokes out after the on-field umpire was not convinced by Ashwin's call for a leg-before as the visitors found themselves tottering at 78/4, still 56 runs behind the host's first innings score.
England's woes seemed to get worsened with opener Haseeb Hameed still nursing a hand injury and it will be interesting to see whether the 19-year-old right-hander will come out to bat on the penultimate day.
Earlier, riding on late-order heroics of all-rounders Ravindra Jadeja (90), Ashwin (72) and Jayant Yadav (55), India managed to cross the psychological barrier of 400 and added 17 more runs in their first essay.
Jadeja produced his career-best Test score while Jayant notched his maiden Test half century to pull India to a sizeable lead.
Resuming the second session at 354/7, Jadeja and Jayant continued their good touch until the Saurashtra batsman was dismissed by leg-spinner Adil Rashid in the 124th over. His 170-ball knock was laced with 10 boundaries and one six.
The fall of Jadeja's wicket brought in Umesh Yadav (12), who along with Jayant forged a crucial 33-run partnership for the ninth wicket before Jayant was sent back to the pavilion by pacer Ben Strokes (5/73).
Umesh and Mohammad Shami (1 not out) managed to add only three runs to the total before India were packed off to the pavilion.
Earlier, India scored 84 runs from 30 overs in the morning session of the play losing the lone wicket of Ashwin (72).
For England, pacer Ben Strokes scalped five wickets for 73 to become their most successful bowler followed by leggie Adil Rashid (4/118).