England were reeling at 156 for 7 at lunch on the fourth day of the third Test in Mohali on Tuesday.
The visitors, who resumed the day on 78 for 4, have a 22-run lead with three wickets in hand. Haseeb Hameed (13) and Chris Woakes (1) were at the crease.
The first session of Day 4 well and truly belonged to India after the hosts scalped three wickets – including the all-important one of Joe Root, who was 22 short of his century – to leave England on the brink of another loss.
The day began with Umesh Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja bowling in tandem, with Monday’s wicket-taker Ravichandran Ashwin being held back for more than an hour. But Virat Kohli’s gamble paid off as Jadeja trapped nightwatchman Gareth Batty on a duck in his first over. The ball kept low and Batty pushed forward and was rapped on the pads.
Batty’s dismissal brought Jos Buttler, who had impressed in the first innings, on crease with Root. He managed to hold his ground for a bit and build a solid partnership of 29. However, Buttler failed to curb his aggressive instinct, coming ahead to play a few shots, which eventually led to the fall of his wicket.
It wasn’t a smart move from Buttler, given the situation England were in, but after getting a six off Jadeja, he tried a few more lofted shots. He left his crease and came forward to hit Jayant Yadav in a similar manner, but the bowler was able to gauge the movement and kept it short. The ball eventually found Jadeja at cow corner, ending Buttler’s stay on 18.
Haseeb Hameed, who is nursing a finger injury, came in to bat next and looked like his solid, defensive self. Even with six down, the opener and No 3 for England set out on a promising partnership of 45. However, the final hope for the visitors came to an end when Ajinkya Rahane took a blinder at first slip to dismiss Root for 78. Root, who was beginning to play his shots more freely, edged a good length ball from Jadeja to Rahane who took a sharp, instinctive catch that had even him astounded. Chris Woakes was the new batsman in, and managed to open his account shortly before the interval.
With a meager lead of 22 and only three wickets in hand, England are all but out of this Test and it might just end on the penultimate day. It will all depend on how much an injured Hameed, as well as Woakes and Rashid, both who can bat a bit, can stretch this out.