England’s top order crumbled once again as India moved into a dominant position on the third day of the fourth Test in Ahmedabad.
India ended their first innings 160 ahead, 365 all out with Washington Sundar stranded on 96 not out, and left their punchdrunk opponents 30 for four early in the afternoon session.
Ravichandra Ashwin had Zak Crawley caught at slip for five and made it two in two balls when Jonny Bairstow turned him round the corner to leg slip for a third duck in four innings.
Dom Sibley then fell to an outrageous slice of bad fortune, smashing a sweep shot off Axar Patel into Shubman Gill’s leg guards at short leg to leave Rishabh Pant a simple catch. That left a huge burden on captain Joe Root and his deputy, Ben Stokes, but the latter joined the procession in the 13th over of the innings.
Having top-scored with 55 on day one and bowled himself into the ground for figures of four 89 in the response, his inspiration finally ran dry as he swept straight into Virat Kohli’s hands at leg-slip.
India resumed their innings in buoyant spirits, riding high after Pant’s game-changing 101 on the second evening.
England’s weary attack would have been hoping to bring a quick end to the innings but soon found themselves in a familiar conundrum. While James Anderson was able to hold down one end for five overs at a cost of just four runs, Root’s decision to throw his support behind the struggling Dom Bess did not come off.
His two overs leaked 15 runs, including two boundaries and a six from Sundar. Root’s attempts at bolstering the off-spinner’s confidence had taken a swift turn for the worse and he was promptly removed with his self-belief suffering again.
Sundar and Patel had no intention of making life easy for England, scoring 50 in the first hour and batting with the kind of freedom only a healthy scoreboard can provide.
Jack Leach was tighter than Bess but worryingly docile, generating no real chances as the game drifted ever further away.
After more than 100 overs of work in sweltering 38-degree heat, England were understandably flagging, with Root filling in for Bess with the ball and Stokes flogging his body for the cause.
It took a run out to end the eighth-wicket stand at 106, Patel setting off ambitiously before Bairstow and Root combined to raise the bails at the bowler’s end. By then, Sundar had moved within a boundary of a special landmark but he did not face another ball.
Gratefully accepting the opportunity to cash in on his hard work, Stokes had Ishant Sharma lbw first ball with a big in-swinger then rushed one through Mohammed Siraj to finish with hard-earned figures of four for 89.