Ashwin-less India turn up the heat on England in third Test

Yashasvi Jaiswal hits quick century after bowlers raise their game to dismiss visitors for 319

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Losing your premier bowler and crucial lower order batsman in the middle of a Test is never good news. That it happened at exactly the mid point of the five-Test series - third day of the third Test - put India in trouble.

But the home team did not let the absence of elite spinner Ravichandran Ashwin - out of the match due to personal emergency - break their stride as they took complete control of the Rajkot Test, pushing their lead to 322 after a sensational spell by their bowlers and an attacking century by opener Yashasvi Jaiswal.

England had raced to 207-2 by stumps on day two at almost six runs an over, harbouring genuine hopes of coming close to India's first innings total of 445. And especially because Ashwin was out of the contest.

Then, Joe Root decided to reverse scoop Jasprit Bumrah early on Saturday. He was caught at slip against the run of play, and that gave India belief.

Next over, Jonny Bairstow was trapped lbw by Kuldeep Yadav and when overnight centurion Ben Duckett offered a dolly to cover off the same bowler, the visitors had lost five wickets for 260.

The initiative was well and truly with India, and they did not waste any time in wrapping up the innings in the second session. Ravindra Jadeja got captain Ben Stokes caught at long on and next ball, Mohammad Siraj had keeper Ben Foakes caught at mid on.

Siraj then mopped up the tail with two sensational yorkers to finish with 4-84 as England folded up for just 319, handing the hosts a lead of 126.

India needed to drive home the advantage but they were fairly cautious at the start. Jaiswal made just 14 runs from his first 50 balls, even as captain Rohit Sharma fell lbw to Joe Root.

But in the company of Shubman Gill, Jaiswal went all the way to fifth gear in the third session. Jaiswal pumped James Anderson for three consecutive boundaries - including a six over square leg - and the next over, hit successive sixes off Tom Hartley to race past fifty.

Jaiswal and Gill hit at least one boundary for six consecutive overs as the 100-run partnership came up in 122 balls and India's lead stretched past 250.

Pacer Mark Wood returned to attack the batsmen with short-pitched balls and he managed to contain the batsmen enough. Jaiswal, though, could line himself up against the predictable line and he did that to carve one through covers to reach three figures.

Absolutely nothing was working for England until Jaiswal was laid low by back problems, forcing him to retire hurt after multiple attempts at treatment. Jaiswal returned to the dressing room on 104 from 133 balls.

That gave England a small opening, and they picked up another wicket - Rajat Patidar hitting a long hop from Hartley to mid wicket.

By stumps, India had reached 196-2 for a lead of 322. Shubman Gill will resume play on 65, with a few more in-form batsmen to come. India, though, only have 10 batsmen and Jaiswal has fitness issues, which means the hosts can't relax completely.

But they will know that they need to bat only for a session and a half to all but put the match beyond England. And that would be a remarkable achievement for a team missing four frontline players - Virat Kohli, Mohammad Shami, KL Rahul and Ashwin.

Updated: February 17, 2024, 12:50 PM