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INDIA V ENGLAND TESTS

Spinners shine with bat and ball

29 November 2016

Gun all-rounder Ravichandran Ashwin has helped put India in a strong position in the third Test // Getty

Ashwin again takes centre stage as India’s lower-order puts them in a powerful position

The inexplicable twists and turns in the third Test in Mohali which have left England gasping for survival has vindicated India's choice of five bowlers at the expense of a specialist batsman for home games.

Who needs another batsman when bowlers outscore the top-half and then return to carry out the job they were originally picked for?

England were 4-87 on the first morning after winning the toss before the rest of the batting rallied around Jonny Bairstow's 89 to lift the total to a more presentable 283.

India silence England as two Ravis flourish

Similarly, India slipped to 6-204 in reply before their three spinners led a remarkable fightback that helped the last four wickets add a further 213 runs.

Ravichandran Ashwin underlined his status as the top-ranked all-rounder with a polished 72, while spin partners Ravindra Jadeja (90) and Jayant Yadav (55) flattened the tourists with attractive stroke-making.

India, who were still 79 runs behind when the sixth wicket fell on the second day, ended up with a lead of 134, enough to put pressure on England in the second essay.

The spin trio was not done yet as Ashwin grabbed three quick wickets and Yadav took one to leave England tottering at 4-78 by stumps on the third day.

The pitch which appeared to be slow, but easy-paced, when India batted, suddenly seemed to explode to life in the post-tea session as England struggled to put bat to ball.

With six wickets in hand, the deficit of 56 runs should be wiped out, but England need a gutsy batting display similar to India's to wriggle out of the mess they find themselves in.

Left-handed Jadeja, who narrowly missed a maiden Test century when he holed out in the deep off Adil Rashid, said the pitch had nothing to do with England's misfortune.

"It is not an unplayable wicket by any means," he said.

"But England are struggling because we managed to get ourselves a good lead and put them under pressure."

Stokes keeps quiet after knocking over Kohli

Jadeja, who has scored three first-class triple-centuries, moved to 89 by taking 16 runs in one Chris Woakes over, including three consecutive boundaries.

England captain Alastair Cook immediately pulled Woakes out of the attack and brought back Rashid, who struck with the first ball of his new spell as Jadeja skied a catch to long-on.

"I know I missed a hundred, but I have no regrets playing that shot," Jadeja said.

"I have got a lot of runs in the past with the lofted drive, but this time I could not connect properly due to the slow nature of the wicket."

Jadeja said he was delighted to help his spin partners rattle England with both bat and ball.

Vijay survives rare, but familiar, appeal

"When the lower order contributes runs, it benefits the team," he said. "It is a bonus when the numbers seven to 11 chip in with the bat.

"It was not an easy situation when Ashwin and I came together on the second day. Luckily, both of us and Jayant were able to get going which has put us in a comfortable position.

"It is not just our top order which scores runs, we can do it too. It helps the team achieve the targets it has set for itself.

"It's not magic. We focus a lot on our batting in the nets and speak to the batting coach (Sanjay Bangar) to see where we can improve.

"We go into a match mentally prepared to try and deal with any challenge that is thrown at us. That's how one grows as a Test cricketer."

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Meg Lanning Steve Smith

About the Writer

 @diplal
@diplal

Kuldip Lal is a New Delhi-based journalist who retired last year as South Asia's sports correspondent for Agence France-Presse (AFP). He also wrote for the Kolkata-based Telegraph newspaper and Sportsworld magazine.

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