|Second Test, Chennai (day two)|
|India 329 (Rohit 161, Pujara 67, Pant 58*, Moeen 4-128) & 54-1|
|England 134 (Foakes 42*, Ashwin 5-43)|
|India lead by 249 runs|
England’s batting crumbled in the Chennai dust as India moved on course for an emphatic win in the second Test.
With the ball biting, fizzing and spitting off a rapidly deteriorating pitch, England had few answers against India’s skilful spinners, slipping to 52-5 in response to the hosts’ 329.
Ben Foakes provided admirable resistance with an unbeaten 42, saving a follow-on that probably would not have been enforced, before England were bowled out for 134.
Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin ended with 5-43, while debutant left-arm spinner Axar Patel and pace bowler Ishant Sharma claimed two wickets apiece.
Rohit Sharma, who made a sparkling 161 on day one, survived a stumping chance on 20 and overturned an lbw decision on 22 to end the second day 25 not out, taking India to 54-1 and a lead of 249.
For all of the debate over the suitability of the pitch, India have now scored 383 runs in 113.5 overs for the loss of 11 wickets.
Much will be made of the pitch and the question of when the exploitation of home advantage is taken to such a degree that it compromises the integrity of the contest.
On one hand, extreme conditions are part of the rich tapestry of Test cricket and overcoming them is the challenge of playing away from home. Is it any more difficult for England in Chennai than it was for India when they were dismantled in English conditions at Lord’s in 2018?
On the other, should the surface – and therefore the toss – dictate the outcome to this extent? This pitch has offered excessive encouragement for the spinners, even for the subcontinent.
Whatever the rights and wrongs, the conditions provide context for the state of the match and it would be harsh to view this as another instalment in England’s historical struggles in Asia.
In this extreme environment, India’s batsmen are more adept at scoring runs, their bowlers more relentless in exploiting the assistance.
Yes, India won the toss, but they have also had Rohit’s beautiful batting and Ashwin’s mesmeric bowling, which England have not come close to matching.
India roar back
Even if India tailored the conditions following their chastening 227-run defeat in the first Test, they have still outplayed England for two days in the Chennai sun.
From 300-6 overnight, Rishabh Pant belted two straight sixes before running out of partners on 58 not out.
After Rory Burns was lbw to the third ball of the England innings, playing all around a straight one from Ishant, the spinners got to work.
Ashwin, with his subtle variations, had a sweeping Dom Sibley caught off the back of the bat, a tortured Dan Lawrence held a short leg and bowled Ben Stokes with a near-unplayable dipper that turned sharply to take off stump.
In between, the accurate Axar struck the biggest blow by having captain Joe Root top-edge one of his trademark sweeps.
It was only Foakes who delayed the India march and, when the tail was mopped up, Rohit picked up where he left off on Saturday to swiftly extend the lead.
Foakes and Stone a silver lining for England
While this might seem like a brutal reality check for England after a superb performance in the first Test, they can still take heart from the performances of two of their most inexperienced players.
Despite doing little wrong in his previous five Tests, Foakes is only playing because Jos Buttler has been rested, yet once again showed his class behind the stumps and his composure with the bat.
Faultless with the gloves on day one, he began day two with a lightning stumping to remove Axar, then would later arrive at the crease with England floundering.
With precise footwork and a solid defence, he was rarely troubled, steadying with Ollie Pope, who was equally unflustered for 22.
After Pope was caught down the leg side off fast bowler Mohammed Siraj’s first ball in a Test in India, Foakes marshalled the lower order to end undefeated. A rare blemish came when he missed the clear stumping chance as Rohit charged at Moeen Ali.
Stone, in his second Test, impressed with his pace on day one. When England wanted to wrap up the India tail on Sunday morning, he was asked to rough up Kuldeep Yadav and Siraj, both of whom were both caught behind in the space of three balls to leave Stone with 3-47.
‘England have just got to fight’
Former England captain Michael Vaughan on The Cricket Social: “England have got to just fight. You never know, someone could do something remarkable.
“It looks like England will lose this game but try and take something into the next Test. Don’t get too demoralised.”
England assistant coach Graham Thorpe: “It’s incredibly challenging on that surface for us. They have a skilled spin attack and it was a very good toss to win.
“There are some balls in the pitch that you might not be able to do too much about. In terms of commenting on the suitability of the pitch for a Test, that’s for someone above me to say.
“We need something very, very special to happen tomorrow and somebody do something amazing with the bat. We knew we were going to have some tough times and the important thing is the dressing room doesn’t get too affected by today.”
England wicketkeeper Ben Foakes on Channel 4: “It was an incredibly tough day. The pitch was playing a few tricks. I just tried to stick to my game plan.
“We have to apply ourselves in the second innings, back our defence and try to put pressure on the bowlers.”
India spinner Ravichandran Ashwin: “In the seven days of Test cricket we have played so far England have competed really well. I haven’t seen them complaining about the conditions.
“There are conditions that will challenge you, whether it’s with spin or with seam. If the ball is moving around at 145-150km/h off the deck, that has to be more challenging than someone bowling at 85-90km/h when the ball is spinning.”
BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew: “There will be questions asked, in the wider game, about the suitability of this pitch for Test cricket.
“If cricket was played on this pitch all the time then there would be no need for five days.”