Virat Kohli has hailed his close friend Ishant Sharma as the "stalwart of the Indian fast-bowling group" as he prepares to charge in against England in his 100th Test. 

Ishant will become the 11th India player to bring up a century of appearances in the longest format in the day-night contest at Motera Stadium, which starts on Wednesday. 

The 32-year-old has 302 Test wickets since making his debut against Bangladesh in May 2007 and Kohli paid tribute to his compatriot as he prepares to reach the milestone in Ahmedabad during a four-match series that is level at 1-1. 

"I have known Ishant for many years now. He started playing state cricket with me from his first season onwards," the India captain said. 

"We have been room-mates for many years in state cricket, in Ranji Trophy cricket. When he got selected for India, he was fast asleep in the afternoon, and I had to kick him off the bed and say you have been selected. And he wouldn't believe me. That's how far we go back. 

"I couldn't be happier for him. Playing 100 Test matches as a fast bowler is no mean feat. Especially in our conditions where things get so difficult, but he persevered, he kept working hard. 

"That has been his essence from day one. Very hard-working guy, very honest about the game, about his ability, about what he brings to the table. Very self-assured."

Kohli believes his friendship with Ishant has helped the fast bowler to thrive.

"I was most excited to work with him and really bring the best out of him as an attacking fast bowler," Kohli said.

"Something that clicked immediately [when Kohli took the captaincy]. He knows my mindset. He knows me inside out. There is a big trust factor. I know him inside out. I know he will respond to advice, he knows I am going to listen to his plans as well.

"I think it has worked really well for both of us. Not just for him as a fast bowler, but for me as a captain to have that kind of experience and the kind of consistency he brings along with the attacking lines and lengths he bowls.

"I have just been very, very happy to see him enjoy his bowling over the last four-five years and really become that stalwart of the Indian fast-bowling group.

"Couldn't be happier for him. Really, really excited I am going to be present on the field when he plays his 100th game. To see the smile on his face and just run in and bowl will be great to watch for a dear friend of mine."

A gripping series is perfectly poised ahead of a mouthwatering day-night Test between India and England at the spectacular Motera Stadium. 

Although the capacity will be halved due to coronavirus restrictions amid the pandemic, there will still be up to 55,000 allowed into the biggest cricket venue in the world for the third Test in Ahmedabad.  

Ravichandran Ashwin was the star of the show on his home ground in Chennai as India levelled the series at 1-1, the all-rounder taking match figures of 8-96 and scoring a sublime second-innings century on a pitch that turned sharply from day one. 

The seamers will be hoping playing under floodlights with a pink ball will give them more of a chance to make an impact when the third Test starts on Wednesday, though spin will still be expected to play a major part in proceedings. 

India paceman Ishant Sharma is poised to make his 100th appearance in the longest format, while Ashwin is closing in on 400 Test scalps. 

James Anderson and Jofra Archer are set to return to the England side, with Chris Woakes pushing for a place along with Jonny Bairstow and Mark Wood - the latter two are back in the squad after being given a break following the tour of Sri Lanka. 

England all-rounder Moeen Ali will not feature after heading home and India have brought fast bowler Umesh Yadav into the squad, releasing Shardul Thakur. 

Captain Joe Root gave nothing away when asked about selection on the eve of the match. 

He said: "We are going to take our time with the limited information we have on this ground, on pink-ball cricket. We are going to make sure we give ourselves as much information as possible before we make that decision."

 

Century up for Ishant, Ashwin closing in on 400

Ishant is set to become only the 11th player for India to reach 100 Tests, having already marked this series with a milestone after taking his 300th wicket in the longest format. 

The pace bowler has taken 76 Test scalps at an average of just 19.3 since 2018 and could thrive in the conditions. 

Ashwin, the hero of the second Test, is just six wickets short of the 400 landmark - a feat only Anil Kumble, Kapil Dev and Harbhajan Singh have achieved for India. 

The off-spinner has taken 17 wickets in the series at 17.82 apiece with a strike rate of 40.4. Jack Leach is the second-highest wicket-taker with 12.

 

Anderson ready to shine under the lights

After playing a big hand in England's victory in the first Test in Chennai, Anderson was understandably frustrated to be omitted for the second match at the same venue.

The seamer said he understands the tourists' rotation policy in such a demanding year, though, and is raring to go with the pink ball.

England's leading Test wicket-taker has claimed 14 scalps at an average of 17.85 in three day-night Tests and should pose a massive threat to the India batsmen.

He said: "All the seam bowlers want really is a bit of carry, which we haven't really had throughout the series. We're keeping our fingers crossed there's a bit more in it for the seamers."

Key match facts

- India were bowled out for only 36 in their last day-night Test against Australia in Adelaide in December. England also endured a pink-ball nightmare when they were skittled out for just 58 by New Zealand in March 2018. 

- India have managed one win and a defeat in their two day-night Tests. England have been beaten in two of the three day-night contests they have played in the longest format.  

- This will be the third Test encounter between India and England at Motera Stadium. India have won once there, with Cheteshwar Pujara making a Test-best 206 not out in November 2012. The other meeting ended in a draw. 

- Only Niroshan Dickwella (seven in 19 games) has claimed more Test stumpings than Ben Foakes since November 2018 (five). The England wicketkeeper has only played six Tests in that time. 

- Rory Burns has been dismissed by Ashwin in three of his four innings in the series, scoring just 33 runs. 

Joe Root said England will aim to exploit any self-doubt from India's 36 all-out collapse in their last pink-ball outing as the third Test gets under way on Wednesday.

India claimed a 2-1 series win on the road against Australia in January but were beaten in the opener, falling to their record low score in just 21.2 overs in their second innings.

India quickly recovered from that humiliation, and the hosts also bounced back from an opening Test loss to England to tie this series at 1-1 ahead of the third test in Ahmedabad.

Root, who earned man-of-the-match honours in the series opener after scoring a double-century in his 100th Test, hinted India's nightmare in Adelaide may play on the minds of the hosts when under the lights.

"If we can exploit that [events in Adelaide] then that's something we will look to do," Root said.

"But you have to earn the right, make early inroads, build pressure for periods of time and put balls in good areas, challenging defences.

"That will be our focus; [36 all out] is more for them to worry about, for it to be in the back of their minds."

The 30-year-old insists the tourists are in a strong position with the series tied heading into a day-night Test in the world's largest cricket venue, Sardar Patel Stadium.

In India's only previous home day-night Test, against Bangladesh in Kolkata in 2019, seam bowlers dominated and Root is hoping that similar conditions this week could play into England's advantage.

"We are 1-1 with a pink-ball game two days away," Root added. "It's a great position to be in from our perspective. It's a very exciting prospect for the group.

"Playing against India in the subcontinent you expect the ball to spin and I'm sure at some point it will.

"But if conditions are more seam-orientated, then the experience of growing up in English conditions should be in our favour.

"It's about handling those conditions as best we can and try to exploit them with ball in hand."

Mark Wood revealed he withdrew from the Indian Premier League auction so he could spend time with his family and to ensure he was not "goosed mentally or physically" in a big year for England.

Wood had put himself forward for an IPL stint at the highest base price (2 crore/£200,000), but opted out on the eve of the auction this week.

The paceman's decision came after he flew to India for the remainder of the Test series, five Twenty20 Internationals and three ODIs.

Wood, who was given time off after the Sri Lanka tour last month, says playing for England in his priority, with the T20 World Cup and an Ashes series in Australia to come after a busy summer on home soil - including facing India again.

The quick said: "I'm going to spend six weeks here in India and then it would be another eight weeks on top of that, so that's 14 weeks.

"We're in a strange situation with COVID and unfortunately you can't see your families during that winter period coming out with India, like we usually do. 

"I just wanted to be able to switch off, recharge and go back home for the second reason, which is being ready for England. 

"I've tried to prioritise that and think later on in the year we've got loads of cricket going on and I don't want my body to fail me or be a bit goosed mentally or physically going into the back of the year, with a World Cup, Ashes and big series against India at home.

"I wanted to make sure I was ready from that point of view and have some family time because this block is a long time away from home."

England all-rounder Moeen Ali was snapped up by Chennai Super Kings for £700,000 on Thursday and although Wood knows he may have missed out on a lucrative deal, the 31-year-old hopes to get another chance to play in the IPL.

"Obviously there's been some big names gone for some big money and never begrudge them that, I think it's life-changing money, so it was a difficult decision for me," he said on Friday.

"The plus side is you're not just going for money reasons, you want to prove [yourself] hopefully going into the World T20 and learn some skills. Plus I feel like I've got a little bit of unfinished business with the IPL, I feel like I didn't do very well well in one game for Chennai last time [in 2018].

"I'd like another crack at some point, I just didn't feel like the time was right. Every player has their own decision, but for me it was to prioritise my family and England."

Sam Curran has been ruled out of England's plans for the ongoing Test series against India because flying him in for the fourth match would have been too complicated.

It had been intended that Curran would travel to Ahmedabad to be available for what will be England's final Test of the tour, starting on March 4.

But the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said on Thursday that "making secure arrangements for such a journey proved too great a logistical challenge".

Surrey all-rounder Curran played in both of England's Tests against Sri Lanka in January, but he returned home after the series – alongside Jonny Bairstow and Mark Wood – in order to take a break from the team's biosecure bubble.

While Bairstow and Wood have returned to training and are expected to be able to play in the third Test next week, Curran was given extra time off. The 22-year-old, who also represented Chennai Super Kings in the IPL, has spent extended time in team bubbles since July 2020.

England take on India in five Twenty20 internationals and three ODI matches throughout March, and Curran will join members of the limited-overs squad travelling on a charter flight on February 26. He will arrive too late to be considered for the final Test, the ECB indicated.

With no direct flights available from the United Kingdom, Curran would have had to make a stop-over on his way to the Ahmedabad Test. That would have added more risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus, while he would have had to isolate on his arrival in India had any other passenger on his commercial flights returned a positive test.

An ECB spokesman said: "To give Sam the best chance of minimising his risk of exposure to the virus, it was decided to delay his return so that he could travel on the charter flight with the white-ball squad members due to fly on 26 February."

Over 21 Tests with England, Curran has taken 44 wickets for an average of 32.52, while he has 14 limited-overs wickets to his name.

Chris Silverwood has apologised to Moeen Ali over the miscommunication of why he will play no further part in England's Test series against India.

England captain Joe Root stated that all-rounder Moeen had chosen to go home following a crushing defeat in the second Test in Chennai on Monday.

Root suggested Moeen needed a break from life in a bio-secure bubble, with the selectors also managing workloads in a such a hectic year for England.

Head coach Silverwood set the record straight on Wednesday, stating it had already been decided that Moeen – who tested positive for COVID-19 early in the tour of Sri Lanka last month – would fly home.

Silverwood said: "First of all, we're sorry. The impression we gave yesterday was Moeen's been treated different to other people. He isn't, I can guarantee you that.

"The decision for him to go home was ours as it was with [Jos] Buttler, Sam [Curran], [Jonny] Bairstow and [Mark] Wood, to be honest. So, we're happy to own that decision.

"It was a unique situation with Moeen. He had spent so long in isolation, getting COVID out in Sri Lanka, and he had just broken back into the team. The question was posed to him [over whether he wanted to stay in India], do you know what I mean?

"We try and work as closely as we can with players to make sure they get the best opportunities as well as looking after them. So it was asked. But ultimately, we felt it was the right decision for him to go home."

Silverwood said Moeen understands the team management policy after he took eight wickets before smashing a quickfire 43 in his first Test since August 2019.

He added: "I think it's the life we're living at the moment. We have to prioritise looking after our players and we're doing the best we can. Being locked in a bubble for long periods of time is difficult, especially with people who have families at home.

"We have to be very respectful that people need to see families. And equally families need to see them as well.

"We touched base with Mo last night – as did Joe – and he was fine. He understands we've got his best interests at heart and we're trying to look after him just like all the other players in the strange times we're in."

Former England seamer Silverwood says Moeen can still have a big part to play for his country in the longest format.

"We're trying to build a big group of players we can use moving forward," Silverwood said. "The planning and building for the Ashes started a long time ago and we're continuing to build that group of players.

"At any given point, anybody can play. Moeen is a very big part of that."

Umesh Yadav has replaced Shardul Thakur in India's squad to face England in the final two Tests of their four-match series.

Virat Kohli's men responded to their 227-run defeat in the opening match with an even more resounding 317-run triumph this week.

After those matches in Chennai, the series will conclude with back-to-back games in Ahmedabad - the first of which will be a day-night Test.

That might mean an increased emphasis on seam bowling, making Umesh's return from the calf injury he sustained during the Boxing Day Test against Australia in Melbourne timely.

The 33-year-old, who has 148 Test wickets at 30.54, will undergo a fitness test before joining up with his team-mates and a fast-bowling group of Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj.

Thakur has not featured in the England series and was released alongside reserves Priyank Panchal, Abhimanyu Easwaran and Shahbaz Nadeem to take part in India's domestic 50-over competition.

Opening batsman Easwaran being allowed to depart suggests the forearm injury that kept Shubman Gill off the field on day four of the second Test is not something that will threaten his participation next week.

 

India squad for the third and fourth Tests against England: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, KL Rahul, Hardik Pandya, Rishabh Pant, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravichandran Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Washington Sundar, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav.

Former South Africa captain Faf Du Plessis has announced his retirement from Test cricket and has revealed his intention to focus on Twenty20s with a view to the upcoming World Cups.

Du Plessis, 36, made the announcement via social media, writing that "my heart is clear and the time is right to walk into a new chapter" after 69 Tests for the Proteas.

The right-handed batsman had made 199 for South Africa against Sri Lanka less than two months ago but pressure had been mounting on his place in the Test side in recent years and that was not helped by a lean recent tour of Pakistan.

"It has been a year of refinement in the fire for us all," Du Plessis wrote. "Uncertain were the times, but they brought clarity for me in many respects.

"My heart is clear and the time is right to walk into a new chapter. It has been an honour to play for my country in all the formats of the game, but the time has come for me to retire from Test cricket.

"If someone had told me 15 years ago, that I would play 69 Test matches for South Africa and captain the side, I wouldn't have believed them. I stand in a place of utmost gratitude for a Test career full of blessings bestowed on me."

Du Plessis, who captained the Proteas at Test level from 2016 to early 2020, finishes his international red-ball career with 4,163 runs at an average of 40.02 with 10 centuries. His 199 against Sri Lanka in December will finish as his highest Test score.

The Pretoria-born batsman added that he intends to continue playing internationally in the shortest format, with T20 World Cups coming up in October-November in India and next year during the same period in Australia.

Du Plessis played all three T20 internationals against England in November and December, making two half-centuries in the series defeat.

He also played for the Chennai Super Kings during the 2020 Indian Premier League, finishing the season as the side's top scorer with 449 runs at 40.81 with a strike rate above 140.

"The next two years are ICC T20 World Cup years," Du Plessis added. "Because of this, my focus is shifting to this format and I want to play as much of it as possible around the world so that I can be the best player I can possibly be.

"I strongly believe that I have a lot to offer to the Proteas in this format. This does not mean that ODI cricket is no longer in the plans. I'm just making T20 cricket the priority in the short-term.

"I will be in conversation with CSA over the next couple of months on what the future might look like for me over the next year to find a solution that works for both of us."

Virat Kohli said India played "a perfect game" and saluted Test newcomer Axar Patel, whose five wickets set up a 317-run win over England.

From 53-3 at the start of play on day four, England subsided to 164 all out at M.A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai as the hosts secured a series-levelling victory.

With two matches still to play, Kohli warned the tourists could still pose a big threat to India, but he felt the success over Joe Root's side inside four days indicated his team were finding a healthy tempo.

"It was a bit strange in the first game to be honest, playing at home without crowds in the stands. Things were flat in the first couple of days, and myself included, we just didn't pick up the energy in the field," Kohli said.

"But I think from the second innings onward in the first game we picked up our game and were on the money with our body language and what we wanted to do on the field, but this game I think the crowd makes a massive difference."

That first game had been played behind closed doors, but fans returned for the second Test, seeing India make 329 and 286 while twice skittling England.

"This game was an example of that grit and determination that we've shown as a side and we continue to do that," Kohli said.

"I think our application with the bat was outstanding in this game. The conditions were challenging for both sides, but we showed more application and grit and determination to battle it out.

"We didn't panic out there, looking at the amount of turn and bounce on that pitch. We trusted our defence and we got into the game and we scored 600 runs in two innings combined. If you put up that kind of a batting performance and you're stringing those important partnerships [together] then we know our bowlers are going to do the job in home conditions. It was a perfect game for us."

Axar took 5-60 in the second innings, with Ravichandran Ashwin (3-53) and Kuldeep Yadav (2-25) also doing the business to ensure all 10 England wickets fell to spin.

Kohli had planned to play Axar in the first Test only for a niggle to keep him out, but there was no holding him back in this game.

"He was very keen to step onto the field," Kohli said. "And as a left-arm spinner where you get that kind of a pitch which is turning square and he bowls very fast, he is all smiles and couldn't wait to get the ball in his hand. I'm very, very happy and hope he builds it up from here on."

Ashwin took man-of-the-match honours after taking eight wickets in the game and making a second-innings century.

Kohli said Ashwin had batted "outstandingly well".

The teams move on to Ahmedabad for the third and fourth matches in the series, and Kohli said: "It's going to be challenging. This England side has quality, they're a quality bunch of players and we expect no easy cricket from them. We need to be on our A game relentlessly."

Moeen Ali has decided to return to England following the second Test against India, with Mark Wood and Jonny Bairstow joining the team for the next match.

After England succumbed to a 317-run loss to India on day four of the second Test in Chennai, captain Joe Root announced Moeen had chosen to leave the bubble.

Moeen was part of the squad for the two Tests against Sri Lanka in January but did not play after spending 13 days in quarantine following a positive COVID-19 test.

The all-rounder sat out the first match against India at M.A. Chidambaram Stadium but returned for the second and took eight wickets – four in each innings – on his return from an 18-month absence in the longest format.

Moeen also added an 18-ball 43 that included five maximums as England failed to hold on for a draw or chase down a victory target of 482, with India levelling the series at 1-1.

"It was not about asking him if he wanted to stay. It was a decision he chose," said Root.

"He wants to get out the bubble and that is absolutely fair enough. We respect where he is at."

England lost all 10 wickets to spin in their second innings and were bowled out for 164 on Tuesday, with Axar Patel claiming a debut five-for and Ravichandran Ashwin, who scored a second-innings century, taking his haul of wickets in the match to eight.

The tourists resumed on 53-3 but lost four wickets in the opening session and saw Root depart five balls after lunch, with Moeen's late flurry coming before the inevitable defeat.

"Credit has to go to India. They outplayed us in all three departments. We got a bit of an education," said England skipper Root.

"We have got to learn. These are the conditions you sometimes come up against. We have got to find a way to score in these conditions and take wickets.

"I think we would like to have bowled slightly better on the first day, find ways of bowling pressure, bowling six balls at one batter and just didn’t quite manage to do that, something I think we can get right in the future.

"We are 1-1 in the series with two important games to come. We are very much in this series. It is set up very nicely."

The third Test will be a day-night match in Ahmedabad and is scheduled to get under way on February 24.

Asked if he would look to rotate the team for that game, Root told Channel 4: "It's a difficult time in that respect but we have to manage the best we can.

"You look at the side you put out, there is no question they are a talented bunch of players. Questions will be asked about resting Jimmy Anderson but we replaced him with the number two bowler in the world [Stuart Broad].

"It is very tricky, players are spending long days away from their families, the fact of the matter is we've been outplayed on a wicket which has spun and is very foreign to our batting line-up.

"We've got a period now to have some honest discussions and ask how we're going to manage things. We won't beat ourselves up too much, won't get ahead of ourselves, we'll come back and be fighting for the rest of the series."

 

England squad for third Test against India: Joe Root, James Anderson, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Zak Crawley, Ben Foakes, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Ollie Pope, Dom Sibley, Ben Stokes, Olly Stone, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.

Axar Patel claimed a debut five-for as India sealed their biggest win by a runs margin over England to level the series at 1-1 on Tuesday.

India kept England well short of their victory target of 482 at M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, with Axar (5-60) generating plenty of spin to help skittle the tourists for 164 and seal a record 317-run success.

Axar claimed the scalps of opener Dom Sibley and nightwatchman Jack Leach to reduce the tourists to 53-3 on day three and they lost another four wickets in the first session on day four.

The writing was on the wall when Joe Root (33) fell to Axar after lunch, with India managing to seal the victory despite Moeen Ali's 18-ball 43.

England's hopes of hanging on for a draw to retain their series lead took a significant blow when Dan Lawrence (26) stepped out to meet Ravichandran Ashwin and was stumped by Rishabh Pant.

Ashwin (3-53) took his third and final wicket of the innings when he drew an inside edge from Ben Stokes (8 off 51 balls) that looped off his pad and into the grasp of a diving Virat Kohli at slip.

Ishant Sharma ran in from deep midwicket to remove Olly Pope (12) off Axar and lunch was taken after Ben Foakes (2) launched Kuldeep Yadav (2-25) to Axar at midwicket.

England returned on 116-7 but five balls into the second session they lost Root, who had been dropped on 32 before lunch, when the captain gloved Axar to Ajinkya Rahane at slip.

Moeen responding by smashing Kuldeep for his first six of the innings and he added another three in a row off Axar after the India spinner trapped Olly Stone lbw.

There was still time for Moeen to add another six off Ashwin, but he was soon stumped by Pant after charging Kuldeep, completing a comfortable win for the hosts.

The only sour note for India was that Shubman Gill went for a scan instead of fielding after taking a blow to the left forearm on day three.

 

MOEEN MAKES HIS CASE

After sitting out the first Test, Moeen ensured his return to the longest format after an 18-month absence was not a damp squib.

He racked up five sixes and three fours in an incredible late flurry that showed his ability to be explosive against spin ahead of the third Test in Ahmedabad.

ASHWIN V STOKES

Stokes fell to Ashwin in the second innings of the first Test and the India off-spinner had his number again as he had a first-innings five-for in the second match.

Ashwin tormented Stokes again on Tuesday and will feel confident of continuing to contain England's star all-rounder for the rest of the series.

Jeetan Patel says England must learn from how Ravichandran Ashwin and Virat Kohli mastered such tough conditions as the tourists prepare to "shake a stick" at pulling off an unlikely win in Chennai.

India are well on course to levelling the four-match series at 1-1 after dominating the third day at M. A. Chidambaram Stadium on Monday.

Ashwin was the star of the show on his home ground, making a brilliant 106 after taking 5-43 on day two, and captain Kohli struck 62 as India recovered from 106-6 to post 286 all out in their second innings.

England were in deep trouble on 53-3 at stumps, needing a mammoth 429 more runs to go 2-0 up, with Kohli's side looking destined to seal a crushing victory.

Axar Patel dismissed Dom Sibley and nightwatchman Jack Leach either side of the magnificent Ashwin getting rid of Rory Burns as India tightened their grip on a pitch that has turned sharply from day one.

Dan Lawrence and Joe Root made it through to stumps and England spin bowling consultant Patel expects the tourists to show fight when they resume on day four.

The former New Zealand spinner said: "I think Ashwin and Kohli were fantastic.

"Kohli, right from the first innings where maybe his footwork was I suppose a touch lazy compared to the second innings – where he was fantastic with the way he got down to the ball and across his stumps.

"The way he forced us to bowl in areas he wanted to, we need to take heed from that. Especially with the way Ashwin came out and swept early, got the field he wanted and then could manipulate the lengths from there.

"They are in a really strong position, there is no doubt about that, but we are going to have work really hard to grab some of that back."

He added: "There's still lots to do, but there's match-winners in this group, we've seen that before.

"I'm not about to say that we are 100 per cent going to win this game, but what I am going to say is we will shake a stick at it."

Patel says it is vital England take a positive approach as they try to dig themselves out of a huge hole.

"I think it's just to keep staying positive, we've got stroke-makers in the group and we want them to keep expressing themselves," he said. 

"The thing that has been the strengths so far in the three matches we have played in the subcontinent is to still try to score. 

"If we sit there and try to defend for two days, we're going to have much success and we're not going to go anywhere in the game. We can certainly look to learn a lot about ourselves while looking to score.

"I think Dan Lawrence was fantastic, the way he played this evening was exactly how he wants to play cricket and how he can contribute to this team."

Ravichandran Ashwin scored a magnifcent century on his home ground as India made England toil on day three of the second Test in Chennai.

India need seven wickets to level the four-match series after all-rounder Ashwin made a sublime 106 on a sharply turning pitch at M. A. Chidambaram Stadium on Monday.

Ashwin played with great application and skill to craft a fifth hundred in the longest format, having also taken 5-43 as England were bowled out for only 134 on the second day.

Captain Virat Kohli made 62 but it was all about Ashwin, roared on by a vociferous crowd, once again as India were bowled out for 286 – setting the tourists a mammoth 482 to win.

The excellent Axar Patel dismissed Dom Sibley and nightwatchman Jack Leach, while Ashwin got rid of Rory Burns to leave England 53-3 at stumps and facing a huge defeat.

Moeen Ali (4-98) and Jack Leach (4-100) thrived on a track that has offered significant turn from day one as India lost five wickets in the morning session.

Ashwin and Kohli mastered the conditions impressively to strengthen India's grip on the match, though, putting on 96 for the seventh wicket.

Moeen saw the back of Kohli, who spent five hours at the crease and struck seven boundaries, but went from strength to strength in an imperious knock, hitting a six and 14 fours.

England were finally put out of their misery when Olly Stone cleaned up Ashwin after Mohammed Siraj added insult to injury with a couple of lusty blows over the rope.

Axar (2-15) then got Sibley lbw for only three and Ashwin had Burns (25) caught by Kohli, before Leach fended the first ball he faced from his fellow left-armer to Rohit Sharma at leg slip.

India were convinced Joe Root should have been adjudged lbw when he was struck in front by Axar, but the third umpire ruled he was hit outside the line of off stump in the final over of a great day for India.

 

False dawn for England

The tourists started the third day on the ropes, with India leading by 249 runs on 54-1 after 15 wickets tumbled on a dramatic day two.

Cheteshwar Pujara fell in the first over, comically run out when he lost his grip on his bat after jamming it in the pitch and was out of his ground following fine work from Ollie Pope at short leg.

India were 106-6 with Rohit, Rishabh Pant, Ajinkya Rahane and Axar back in the pavilion, as Ben Foakes produced two excellent stumpings for Leach and Moeen.

Ashwin and Kohli rub England's noses in it

The magnificent Ashwin put England in a spin on Sunday and showed his class with the bat in front of his adoring crowd in what is turning out to be a dream Test for the all-rounder.

Ashwin and the classy Kohli made England suffer on a hot day, with Root's tiring side becoming increasingly sloppy in the field with a combination of dropped catches and a missed stumping.

Kohli looked untroubled until he was pinned in front by Moeen, but Ashwin continued to take a positive approach after bringing up a 64-ball half-century.

He smashed Moeen for a huge six to move three shy of three figures and there was a huge roar when he struck a streaky boundary to complete a brilliant hundred. Only Ian Botham (five) has scored a century and taken a five-wicket haul in the same Test more times than Ashwin's three.

Ravichandran Ashwin said he never envisaged bowling for his country when he was a teenager let alone taking more Test wickets in India than Harbhajan Singh after tormenting England on Sunday.

Ashwin took 5-43 on a dramatic day two in Chennai, where the tourists were bowled out for only 134 in reply to India's 329 all out.

Virat Kohli's side were 54-1 at stumps – leading by 249 runs – and well on course to level the four-match series.

Ashwin generated huge turn and bounce, with the spinner's drift also causing the England batsmen all sorts of trouble.

Only the great Anil Kumble (350) has more Test scalps than Ashwin in India after the 34-year-old moved past Harbhajan's total of 265.

Ashwin vividly recalls watching Harbhajan take 15 wickets in Chennai to secure a series win over Australia 20 years ago, and expressed his pride after bettering the Indian great's tally of scalps on home soil.

"When I watched the 2000-01 series, when Bhajju Pa [Harbhajan] played, I didn't even imagine I would go on to become an off-spinner for my country," Ashwin said.

"I was still a batsman for my state. Trying to accelerate towards batting and playing for my country. I wasn't even sure I would go on to become a player for the Indian team.

"Lots of my team-mates from that age, from that generation, used to make fun of me because in my action I used to try to bowl like Bhajju Pa.

"From there on to come on and go past him has to be incredibly special. I didn't know of it. Now that I know of it, I am incredibly happy. Sorry, Bhajju Pa."

Ashwin put England under huge pressure in such tough conditions as he took his 29th five-wicket Test haul – putting him level with Glenn McGrath in seventh on the all-time list.

The wily Ashwin has now claimed the wickets of 200 left-handers in the longest format, a landmark he reached by bowling Stuart Broad.

Ravichandran Ashwin claimed his second successive five-wicket haul as India skittled England out cheaply on day two to put themselves in total command of the second Test.

Fifteen wickets tumbled on what look more like a final-day pitch at M. A. Chidambaram Stadium on Sunday, with Moeen Ali (4-128) and Olly Stone both striking twice to bowl India out for 329.

The tourists, leading the four-match series 1-0, were dismissed for only 134 in reply, giving India a first-innings lead of 195 runs in Chennai.

Jack Leach got rid of Shubman Gill but first-innings centurion Rohit Sharma was unbeaten on 25 at stumps, with in complete control on 54-1 - leading by 249 runs.

Ashwin followed up his six-wicket haul in the second innings of the first Test by taking 5-43 in a brilliant exhibition of spin bowling in dream conditions for the spinner, who generated sharp turn and bounce.

Ishant Sharma (2-22) trapped Rory Burns leg before without scoring and Dom Sibley fell for 16 after India added only 29 runs to their overnight total of 300-6.

Debutant Axar Patel (2-40) claimed the huge scalp of in-form England captain Joe Root, caught by Ashwin at short fine leg for only six to become the spinner's first Test victim.

England were reeling on 39-4 after Ashwin got big turn and bounce to see the back of Dan Lawrence and there were more roars from a crowd of 10,000 when the wily tweaker bowled Ben Stokes (18) early in the afternoon session.

Ollie Pope made 22 before falling to Mohammed Siraj and although Ben Foakes (42 not out) played superbly against the spinners, England were all out from 59.5 overs when Stuart Broad was cleaned up by Ashwin.

Leach snared Gill lbw and Rohit successfully reviewed after he was given out in the same fashion but got an inside edge, while also possibly getting away with it when he padded up not offering a shot, but India are well on course to level the series.

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