Welcome to our live report of the fourth day of the first India-England Test from Chennai. Join us for updates, analysis and colour. You can find our traditional ball-by-ball commentary here
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1.20pm: Ashwin snares his third
Stokes edged Ashwin behind, and England are four down inside 20 overs. Their lead is 312 and this has been a strange, frenetic innings, where England don’t seem sure whether they should be looking for quick runs or simply hoping to survive and batting at a normal tempo. Root has looked like he’s batting on a different pitch to everyone else, rattling along to 27 off 15 balls, and Ollie Pope is the new man at No. 6.
1.05pm: Ishant’s 300th
Ishant Sharma traps Dan Lawrence lbw and that is his 300th Test wicket – he’s the sixth India player to reach the landmark, and only the third seamer after Zaheer Khan and Kapil Dev. A fine achievement from a bowler who has improved immensely in the second half of his career. A standing ovation from the Indian dressing room, and applause from his team-mates.
Intriguingly, given the match situation, that ball appeared to keep very low from a length, shooting under the toe of Lawrence’s bat and crashing into his front pad. That could see Jofra Archer come into the game in the fourth innings, as well as England’s spinners.
Joe Root is up and running early with a pair of sweetly-struck sweeps off Shahbaz Nadeem. With the new ball turning and bouncing, and with the form that he is in, it feels like Root will be crucial for England in this innings. If he can find some fluency and keep the strike turning over then the runs will come easily for them. It would be an added benefit for him to be able to judge the pitch while making a decision as to when he should declare.
England have already scored more runs from sweeps in the third innings of the match than India did in the second
— Matt Roller (@mroller98) February 8, 2021
12.40pm: Sibley falls
I said he hadn’t looked convincing, and now Sibley falls. Coming forward to a full ball from round the wicket, Sibley inside-edges and offers a catch to the man in close at leg slip. Brilliant new-ball bowling from Ashwin and England are two down.
Ashwin and Kohli celebrate a wicket BCCI
12.35pm: Pressing on
India have lost one of their reviews, after Ashwin struck Lawrence on the pad but ball-tracking confirmed that it hit him outside the line of off stump. Sibley and Lawrence have not been particularly convincing so far, but England’s lead is nudging closer to the 300 mark with every over. India’s no-ball problem is continuing, too: they bowled 20 of them in the first innings, and Nadeem (twice) and Ashwin have overstepped within the first 10 overs of the second.
12.10pm: How many will England want?
Interesting discussion on Channel 4 in the UK as to how many England will want to set India in the fourth innings, with Alastair Cook – Root’s predecessor – as captain, suggesting he’d like to set a target of at least 400. Perhaps most intriguing was Cook’s answer to host Rishi Persad’s question as to whether the prospect of criticism would enter his head in this sort of situation.
“Absolutely,” Cook said. “You think about if it goes wrong [and] what will happen. Maybe that’s the wrong way to think about it. Maybe you should have just been thinking ‘this is the positive way’ and maybe that’s my mindset. I went with 400 then and I’ve thought ‘have I just gone too many?’ There are so many things, so many permutations. And you’ve got to be so reactive. The most important thing is that England want to remain in control. If they suddenly lose two or three quick wickets then they lose that control and India come back into the game.”
That probably says more about Cook’s captaincy and his mindset than anything else, but it demonstrates the sort of thing that Root will have to consider. He also hinted that he wished he had gambled a little more in Rajkot, in the first Test of the 2016-17 series – though that pitch was much flatter than this one.
R Ashwin is the first spinner in over 100 years to take a wicket off the first ball of an innings!
Bobby Peel, 1888
Bert Vogler, 1907
R Ashwin, 2021#INDvENG
— ESPNcricinfo stats (@ESPNcric_stats) February 8, 2021
11.30am: Lunch – England 1 for 1
Ashwin and Nadeem share new-ball duties and England lose a wicket to the first ball of the innings: Rory Burns falls to Ashwin for the second time in the match, drawn forward and offering a tough chance to Rahane at slip via the shoulder of the bat. This won’t be a straightforward afternoon for batting and Root will have a fine balance to strike in the timing of the declaration – especially with India’s recent fourth-innings heroics in the back of his mind.
11.15am: Innings – India 337 all out (Pant 91, Sundar 85*, Pujara 73, Bess 4-76)
England won’t enforce the follow-on despite bowling India out with a lead of 241. Spectacular, low, one-handed, diving catch at slip from Stokes to finish things off after Anderson drew an outside edge from Bumrah’s loose shot.
11.05am: Anderson’s short ball
The bumper does the trick for Anderson, with Ishant fending him to short leg. According to ESPNcricinfo’s ball-by-ball length data, that was his first Test wicket with a ‘short’ ball since the Boxing Day Test of 2017-18, when Tim Paine dragged one onto his own stumps. Washington Sundar is going to play his shots now, as India look to reach the follow-on target – though I think England would probably decide to bat for a session or so regardless.
10.40am: Pitch perfect
This surface doesn’t appear to have deteriorated much at all since the second morning, as evidenced by a ball in the 90th over. Jofra Archer drew Washington Sundar forward with an 86.7mph/139.5kph ball in channel outside the off stump, earning a genuine edge. But there is so little pace and carry in the pitch that it bounced barely six inches behind the bat, and reached Stokes at slip just before its second bounce. That will be a bonus for India, as it is increasingly difficult to see how they can lose another 13 wickets. Sundar now has his highest Test score, too.
That said, there is definitely extra bounce on offer for the spinners with the new ball. Leach has his second, finding some turn and bounce away from the bat, with Nadeem steering to slip via the shoulder of the bat.
Washington Sundar completed a half-century on the fourth morning BCCI
10.20am: Leach strikes
Nothing much happening with the new ball for England’s seamers, so Root throws the new ball to Jack Leach less than five overs after it has been taken. He strikes with his second delivery: extra bounce from a length with the harder ball which takes Ashwin by surprise as he lunges forward, hoping to smother the spin, and the ball loops up towards the vacant silly point region. Jos Buttler gets across to take the catch, and the 80-run partnership is broken. Shahbaz Nadeem, at No. 9, is still a useful batsman, but England are into the tail.
13-4-23-1 for Leach since Pant’s dismissal
— Matt Roller (@mroller98) February 8, 2021
9.50am: Easy pickings
Poor start from England’s spinners, and for Bess in particular. Too many balls were either overpitched or back-of-a-length in his three overs this morning, and India have added 27 in six overs, with Sundar reaching his second Test fifty with a cover drive off Leach. The new ball is available: if these two can survive the first 10 overs or so against it then India will grow increasingly confident that this Test can be saved.
9.15am: New ball looms
A useful unbroken stand of 32 between R Ashwin and Washington Sundar last night has given India hope of avoiding the follow-on, but there are only six overs until the new ball is due this morning, and England will be hopeful that James Anderson and, in particular, Jofra Archer can break the stand when it arrives. With 15 minutes to go until we get underway, there’s plenty of time to catch up on last night’s Polite Enquiries below, or any of the rest of our overnight content.
#PoliteEnquiries: Pant + Pujara = Trump + Dalai Lama? And the Bob Dylan among ‘Wisdens’
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98