Jofra Archer and Dom Bess took two wickets apiece as England solidified their dominant position in the first Test against India.
The tourists’ first innings finally ended on 578 on the third morning in Chennai, with England ramming home the advantage by reducing their opponents to 154 for four at tea.
With the key wicket of home captain Virat Kohli in the bag for just 11 – caught at short-leg in what must surely go down as the most satisfying moment of Bess’ career to date – England held an imposing lead of 424 at the break.
But India were not without hope, Cheteshwar Pujara in place on 53 not out and Rishabh Pant roaring along to 54no after unleashing a barrage of four sixes in seven balls off Jack Leach.
The tourists batted on for 41 minutes on the third morning in Chennai, eking out another 23 runs for their final two wickets. Bess fell lbw to Jasprit Bumrah for a very handy 34, before James Anderson missed a sweep against Ravichandran Ashwin to draw the curtain after more than 190 overs.
After waiting almost seven sessions for a chance to bat, both Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill found themselves back in the pavilion before lunch. Rohit was undone by Archer for six, nicking in the channel after a half-hearted prod. With Anderson unusually harmless with the new ball, Archer mixed it up impressively as he flipped between bouncers and leg-cutters with the occasional four-ball slipping in to keep the contest even.
India lose another 😲
It's Bess again, who snares his second wicket as Rahane is dismissed after a sharp catch by Root!
— ICC (@ICC) February 7, 2021
Gill looked to be up to the challenge, stroking his way to a smooth run-a-ball 29 before digging out a full ball towards mid-on. Anderson, having just been removed from the attack, remained fully alert and pulled off a diving catch that most 38-year-olds could only dream of.
As they broke for lunch, a score of 59 for two left England well in front.
The previously brisk scoring rate slowed after the break, with Pujara typically cautious and Kohli deciding to go down a similar route in deference to the huge deficit.
After a solitary over before lunch, Bess was given his chance against one of the modern greats and emerged with a clean victory. Having established a consistently solid line and length he struck gold with one that floated a touch away through the air and turned gently into the inside edge of Kohli’s forward press.
Pujara and Pant bring up their half-centuries in the same over off Leach!
— ICC (@ICC) February 7, 2021
Ollie Pope held on to the bat-pad chance and England had their prize scalp. Ajinkya Rahane followed soon after, stepping down the track to meet Bess on the full and carving through cover.
This time Joe Root provided the inspiration, launching into a stunning one-handed catch. While India laboured for 126.1 overs to take four wickets, they had lost the same number in around 100 fewer.
Pujara steadily accumulated as he so often does from number three, but Pant provided the adrenaline shot. Back-to-back fours off Archer showed his early intent but it was Leach who drew out his violent side.
His quartet of sixes were equal parts reckless and thrilling, each smashed hard and high in the arc between long-on and mid-wicket. England hoped he would mistime one soon but he kept on going, following Pujara to a half-century in just 40 balls with a powerful drive off the left-arm spinner.