England on the edge as India seek three-day victory

By Sports Desk March 09, 2024

England are battling to avoid a three-day defeat in Dharamsala as Ravichandran Ashwin caused havoc among the top-order after James Anderson became the first fast bowler to record 700 Test wickets.

Anderson joined former Sri Lanka spinner Muttiah Muralitharan and the late Australia leg-break bowler Shane Warne in the 700 club by dismissing Kuldeep Yadav on the third morning of the fifth Test.

India were all out for 477 and a lead of 259 before Ashwin ran amok on his 100th Test, bagging both England openers, Ollie Pope and Ben Stokes as the tourists ended the session on 103 for five.

Jonny Bairstow briefly rallied on his 100th Test with three big sixes off Ashwin but there was to be no memorable end to the series for the Yorkshireman as he was dismissed before lunch for 39 off 31 balls.

A 4-1 series defeat now appears all but inevitable and England’s hopes of not losing by an innings rest on Joe Root, who is on 34 not out after Stokes was castled by Ashwin with the last ball of the session.

After a chastening past couple of days, England broke out in smiles when Anderson kissed the outside edge of Kuldeep on the way through to Ben Foakes for 30. The evergreen 41-year-old soaked in the congratulations of his team-mates before raising the ball in a typically low-key celebration.

Shoaib Bashir had his five-for as India added just four runs to their overnight score, with the young off-spinner bagging Jasprit Bumrah for 20 to finish with five for 173. Anderson and Bashir each deferred to the other to lead England off the field before walking off together.

It was not long before England were in trouble when their innings started, Ashwin making the breakthrough in his first over when Ben Duckett uncharacteristically charged down the wicket and toe-ended the ball on to his off stump.

Zak Crawley made a 16-ball duck, dismissed after turning Ashwin to backward short-leg while Pope was sketchy again, making 19 before premeditating a sweep which ballooned off the top edge to Yashasvi Jaiswal.

Bairstow was purposeful and muscled three sixes in the space of seven Ashwin deliveries but was lbw when Kuldeep found sharp turn off the pitch. A review failed to save him as HawkEye showed the ball brushing the top of the stumps.

Despite bagging a wicket with his first ball yesterday, Stokes’ troubles with the bat continued as he was dismissed for a 13th time by Ashwin on the stroke of lunch, bowled through the gate by one that skidded on.

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