|First Test, Chennai (day three)|
|England 578 (190.1 overs): Root 218, Sibley 87, Stokes 82|
|India 257-6 (74 overs): Pant 91; Bess 4-55, Archer 2-52|
|India trail by 321 runs|
Dom Bess advanced England’s chances of victory over India on day three of the first Test in Chennai, despite a sparkling knock from Rishabh Pant.
Spinner Bess took 4-55 as India closed 257-6, still 321 runs behind.
Bess had India captain Virat Kohli caught for 11 and vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane for one, the hosts reduced to 73-4.
Pant then brutally targeted the spin of Jack Leach in a stunning counter-attack, while Cheteshwar Pujara made 73 in support.
But Bess returned to dismiss both batsmen with Pant caught at deep extra cover by Leach for 91 from 88 balls.
Jofra Archer earlier claimed the wickets of both India openers in a fine new-ball spell after England added 23 runs in 40 minutes with the bat. They were eventually bowled out for 578.
A seventh-wicket partnership of 32 from Ravichandran Ashwin and Washington Sundar frustrated England late in the day but Joe Root’s side look to be the only team who can win the Test.
England impress again on action-packed day
Three days in, England have still hardly put a foot wrong in this match.
After patiently accumulating over the first two days, on day three they knocked over India’s much-fabled top order.
Archer and Bess were excellent, England’s fielding outstanding too.
James Anderson caught opener Shubman Gill diving at mid-on and Root brilliantly clung on one-handed at extra cover at dismiss Rahane.
After lunch they expertly squeezed the scoring rate, conceding just 14 runs in an hour during which Bess had star batsman Kohli caught at short leg off the inside edge.
Even luck favoured England. Pujara was caught at mid-wicket after the ball had deflected to him off Ollie Pope’s shoulder at short leg.
England’s only blemishes were Leach’s inability to overcome Pant’s dazzling attack and a drop by Archer late in the day to reprieve Sundar on 25. Archer was running back from long-on and spilled the ball as it dropped over his shoulder.
Still, India, the leaders in the World Test Championship who have lost once at home since 2013, face a long battle to deny England over the final two days.
Pant dazzles for India
Pant came to the crease at 73-4 and almost immediately Root introduced Leach to bowl into the rough outside the left-hander’s off stump.
Pant responded by attacking, as Ben Stokes had when faced with a similar challenge in England’s innings.
The wicketkeeper-batsman, who was the star on the final day of India’s historic recent series win in Australia, hit back-to-back sixes in Leach’s first over of his post-lunch spell and repeatedly targeted the leg side.
His innings seemed to spur on the previously conservative Pujara, who played well before his unfortunate dismissal.
At one stage, Leach had figures resembling a Twenty20 rather than a Test match – 0-59 from six overs.
Pant, eyeing a first Test century in India, was drawn into one big shot too many in the end. Bess tossed the ball wide and Leach was able to gain revenge when the ball was skewed to him in the deep.
Bess and Archer step up
Bess has taken two five-wicket hauls in his 12 Tests but this was his best performance to date.
Previously criticised for leaking runs, he offered control for the most part, particularly in a key passage to Kohli and Pujara after lunch.
He also has a healthy knack of taking wickets with bad balls. Rahane hit a full toss to Root for his fine catch and it was Bess who benefitted by Pujara’s freak dismissal.
With Anderson unusually quiet, Archer provided penetration with the new ball.
He bowled quick but also showed he is also a highly skilful bowler by finding movement from the pitch with fast cutters.
As well as removing Gill, he had Rohit Sharma caught behind with a rising ball from back of a length within five overs.
They were Archer’s first five overs in red-ball cricket since August after he sat out the recent tour of Sri Lanka.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan: “From an England perspective, it’s been three days of perfect Test cricket. You can’t play any better than that, apart from Jofra dropping a catch.
“It’s been a great three days but there’s still so much left in this game. If India get another 80 or 100 in another session then it’s eating up a lot of time.”
England spinner Dom Bess, speaking to Channel 4: “I was trying to land it on a spot and build pressure for a long time and I guess the dismissal of Kohli just happened.
“I wasn’t trying to bowl a magic ball and I just wanted to make sure my line and length weren’t missing and I was just hitting the box. It just went a little bit more than the rest.”