Indian spinners were thwarted by a splendid display of ultra-defensive batting by England before the hosts edged ahead dismissing rival skipper Alastair Cook on an engrossing fourth day of the second cricket Test.
In pursuit of an uphill victory target of 405, England finished the day at 87 for 2, thanks to a dogged defiance from skipper Cook and young Haseeb Hameed, who brought back memories of Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers’ ‘batathon’ at the Feroz Shah Kotla, last year.
It was fascinating final two sessions where Cook (54, 188 balls) and 19-year-old Hameed (25, 144 balls) added 75 for the opening stand but more importantly consumed 50 out of the 150 overs that England require to bat in their second innings.
Cook showed enormous patience en route his 53rd Test half-century which came off 172 balls — his slowest in longest format.
The captain’s resistance finally ended when Ravindra Jadeja trapped the skipper leg before with the final delivery of the day. England require 318 runs more on the final but they would be very happy if they could even manage a draw.
India have three full sessions tomorrow to grab the remaining eight wickets and take a 1-0 lead in the five-match series.
If Cook’s experience came to the fore, Hameed defied his age and showed temperament of highest order batting for more than three hours.
Hameed faced 24 overs en route to his 25 before Ashwin gave the breakthrough at the fag end of the day as the ball kept low trapping the right-hander plumb in-front.
In desperation for something special, Ashwin finally delivered a shooter right in middle and leg in his 13th over of the day, and there was no way that Hameed could keep it away as he was trapped right in front for an agonising end.
The opening partnership also provided a study in contrast to their struggling Indian counterparts as the strategy was just to block and delay the inevitable.
India’s frustration was summed up when Kohli used up both his DRS review in space of six balls against captain Cook but to no avail.
England reached 50 in 37.1 overs, a tad faster than their slowest of 38.5 overs in the second innings against Sri Lanka at The Oval in 1998.
Ashwin had ealier bowled 8-3-12-0 in his first spell during the second session and with little assistance from the pitch he was brought in only in the 43rd over.
They did well to keep the five-man Indian attack at bay in front of a 20,000-plus crowd, the best turn-out of the match so far.
Hameed was extremely sound with his technique, did well to duck the short ball and got into his position playing the copybook forward defensive shot.
India bowled in good areas but surprisingly the fourth day wicket which was perceived to be a rank-turner held firm as the English openers played each ball to its merit in their fight for survival.
On a hat-trick, Ashwin was brought in the fifth over but Cook played him without any fuss, while Hameed held firm as England managed to keep themselves unscathed in the second session.
Hameed who was run out in the first innings, was very solid in defence as India looked for something special to dismiss the 19-year-old.
Earlier at the stroke of noon, India’s second essay folded for 204 in an extended lunch session with the last pair of Jayant Yadav (27 not out) and Mohammad Shami (19) putting on 42 runs from 58 balls after Virat Kohli struck a glittering 81.
Kohli batted with his class and majesty stroking out shots all around the park in his knock from 109 balls, studded with four boundaries but before he could notch yet another century Ben Stokes’ one-handed catch at the slip ended his stay.
Looking effortless all around the park, Kohli went for an expansive powerful drive throwing his bat wide of his body as the ball looped high in the air and looked as if it went past the giant frame of Stokes at the slip.
Having caught Kohli in the first innings from the same position, the English all-rounder displayed some freakish reflex leaping high, throwing his body in the air before clinging on to the ball with his right hand behind his body in a high-class stuff.
With Kohli showing some frustrated emotion going back, Stokes remained non-chalant but by then the lead had surpassed 350 and Jadeja started playing freely to step up the run-rate.
Kohli departure after Stokes’ brilliance saw India losing two more — Ravindra Jadeja (14) and Umesh Yadav (0) — without any addition to the the tally.
But Mohammad Shami slamed a 22-ball 19 studded with two sixes and one four as he along with Jayant Yadav (27 not out; 4×4) added 42 runs from 58 balls in an extended lunch session.
India’s second innings folded for 204 in 63.1 overs after Moeen Ali (1/9) ended Shami’s quickfire innnings.
Earlier a brave Stuart Board led England’s fightback as he claimed with 4/33, while legspinner Adil Rashid returned with 4/82 but they struggled to dismiss the tail with some counterattack by the duo of Shami and Jayant.
Defeat looking imminent, the embattled England found some solace in Stuart Board’s incisive bowling after India resumed in the penultimate morning on 98/3.
As his partnership with Kohli began to grow, Rahane was done in by an unplayable delivery that seemingly rose awkwardly from a crack before kissing his gloves and was gloved by Jonny Bairstow.
Broad may have broken the stand at 87, but the sharp bounce and the crack was a welcome for sign for Indian bowlers and concern for the English batsmen who would bat last on a worn-out Dr YSR Reddy ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium pitch.
Having survived on six after a successful referral, Ashwin did not last long and became Broad’s fourth victim edging one behind the stumps.