England found themselves in a hole on the second morning of the second Test against India, reduced to 39 for four as wickets tumbled in Chennai.
The tourists dismissed India for 329 on the second morning, Moeen Ali and Olly Stone taking two wickets each, but soon realised how steep that total really was.
Both openers fell early and Dan Lawrence was caught off the final ball before lunch, but the hammer came when in-form captain Joe Root mis-timed his trusty sweep shot to go for just six.
Very difficult batting conditions for both sides this morning and India on top.
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) February 14, 2021
In all, eight wickets had fallen for 68 runs in the first session, underlining the fiendishly difficult nature of the pitch and the likely trajectory of the match.
India had ended day one on 300 for six but quickly suffered a pair of losses in Moeen’s first over. The first was a good ball but an even better piece of wicketkeeping, Ben Foakes following the turn past Axar Patel’s outside edge then seamlessly flicking the bails as the batsman’s momentum drew him forward.
It was a deserved calling card for the Surrey man on his return to the side, to go with a spotless scorecard showing no byes on a tricky pitch. Two balls later there was a less edifying spectacle as Ishant spooned a full toss straight to short mid-wicket.
Rishabh Pant now knew time was against him and unleashed a barrage of aggressive strokes, with Moeen bearing the brunt as his length wavered. As well as smashing a couple of full tosses, the number six also added another six to his growing collection as he bounded to 58 not out.
His fun ended when Stone entered the attack and mopped things up in the space of five deliveries, both Ishant and Mohammed Siraj edging to Foakes as they bristled at the pace.
The clatter of wickets will not have eased the minds of the English openers and neither Rory Burns nor Dom Sibley survived the new ball.
Burns managed only three deliveries before Ishant had him lbw from round the wicket, clipped in front of leg stump for his third duck in five outings. Sibley started more convincingly, scoring all of the first 16 runs, before an attempted sweep off Ravichandran Ashwin bumped the back of his bat on its way to an animated Virat Kohli at leg-slip.
With first-innings knocks of 228, 186 and 218 to his name in his last three Tests, Root’s arrival carried unreasonably high expectations. For once he fell well short. Having barely mis-timed a solitary sweep shot since the start of the year, he was undone by turn and saw a top edge loop obligingly to short fine-leg, giving Axar a memorable debut wicket.
Lawrence lasted 52 balls for his nine but it was a tortured existence and came to an end when he popped Ashwin to Shubman Gill with the last act of the session.