R Ashwin hundred flattens England as India close in

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England 134 and 53 for 3 (Lawrence 19*, Root 2*) need 429 more runs to beat India 329 and 286 (Ashwin 106, Kohli 62, Moeen 4-98, Leach 4-100)

As India flexed their muscle on day three, moving inexorably towards a series-levelling triumph over England, the second Chennai Test began to take on a carnival feel. Already well ahead in the game and with time to indulge, they served up an exhibition for a grateful Chepauk crowd. R Ashwin, the local hero, proved himself worthy of such billing with a fifth Test hundred and England were hanging on by stumps as the ball fizzed and the close catchers circled.

After the subcontinental batting masterclass, followed closely by a trial against spin, now was the moment for England to contend with an Indian wall of sound. Despite scrapping hard to take five wickets during the morning session, they were steadily enveloped by the hoots, whistles and cheers from the stands, as first Virat Kohli and then Ashwin steadied India’s second innings, before the home spinners returned to their task with relish.

Notionally, England needed 482 to win or two-and-a-bit days of rearguard resistance. Practically, they were merely searching for scraps of encouragement to accompany them on the road to Ahmedabad.

There could be no more appropriate thala in India’s efforts to drive home their advantage than Ashwin. He came into this game having not passed 50 in a Test since 2017, but after taking an aggressive approach from the outset, he eventually reached a raucously received hundred during the evening session – achieving the double of a century and a five-wicket haul in the same match for the third time. Just imagine the decibel level if Chepauk had been at more than 50% capacity.

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