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1st Test, Chennai, February 05 - 09, 2021, England tour of India
578 & 178
(T:420) 337 & 192

England won by 227 runs

Player Of The Match
218 & 40

Dom Bess takes four as India face battle to avoid follow-on

Rishabh Pant, Cheteshwar Pujara led recovery but hefty deficit remains

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
India 257 for 6 (Pant 91, Pujara 73, Bess 4-55) trail England 578 by 321 runs
Contrasting half-centuries from Rishabh Pant and Cheteshwar Pujara led the recovery after India lost four early wickets in reply to England's first-innings total of 578, but they remain in danger of having to follow on as they attempt to save the first Test at Chepauk.
Jofra Archer had removed both openers in a skilful new-ball burst, before Dom Bess struck to dismiss Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane to leave India 73 for 4 before drinks on the third afternoon and still more than 500 runs in arrears.
Pant launched a breathless counter-attack, hitting nine fours and five sixes as he dominated Jack Leach either side of tea, while Pujara worked the ball around in a more restrained innings. But both men fell to Bess in the evening session, leaving India 321 runs behind at the close and needing a tail-end rearguard on the fourth morning to avoid batting again.
In the morning session, India waited 5.2 overs before taking the third new ball, but struck immediately after doing so when Jasprit Bumrah pinned Bess lbw, playing around his front pad. R Ashwin's hard toil brought him his third wicket, clean-bowling the slog-sweeping James Anderson to leave England 578 all out having added 23 to their overnight score.
Archer provided an early breakthrough with the new ball, with his fast leg-cutter finding Rohit Sharma's outside edge as he poked defensively on the back foot. Shubman Gill, in his first Test innings at home, played his shots and looked in superb touch as he clipped Anderson off his pads and drove Archer through straight midwicket.
But Gill too fell inside the first 10 overs. Shaping to play an on-drive against a full ball from Archer, Gill was through his shot early as it gripped in the surface, with Archer pulling his fingers down the side of the ball. Anderson dived sharply to his left at mid-on, and took a good low catch six inches from the ground to leave India 44 for 2.
Joe Root decided to back his spinners after lunch, with Bess returning after a solitary over before the break. With seamers rotating at the other end, Bess settled into his rhythm against Pujara and Kohli, finding a good length outside the off stump and letting natural variation from the pitch do most of the work.
Kohli never settled at the crease. He was beaten outside the off stump by Archer, with early signs of reverse-swing, and chipped Bess just short of midwicket in the following over. His dismissal came thanks to a clever piece of bowling, as Bess pushed the ball a fraction wider outside off stump, finding sharp turn and extra bounce from a length. Kohli lunged forward to defend towards cover-point, but could only inside-edge to Ollie Pope at short leg.
Bess struck again six balls later. He overpitched outside off, as Rahane shimmied down to turn a full ball into a low full toss, and drove uppishly into the covers. Root, in tight, flung himself to his left, putting out a hopeful left hand and, to his delight - and England's, the ball stuck. India were 73 for 4, still 505 runs behind and in deep trouble.
But Pant, fresh from his fourth-innings heroics at the Gabba, was never likely to rest on his laurels. Instead, he took Archer for a couple of early boundaries, and when Pujara drove Bess for a pair of fours through mid-off, Root turned to Jack Leach, looking to make use of the footholes outside Pant's off stump.
At that moment, Pant made the decision to attack. With men in close around the bat, and the ball spinning, zipping, spitting and bouncing out of the rough as early as the second morning when Shahbaz Nadeem had bowled to Ben Stokes, he concluded that defending was the riskier option, not least when the second ball he faced from Leach bounced sharply from outside off to find his inside edge. To his next ball, he skipped down the pitch and planted Leach over long-on, and then just about cleared the fielder at deep midwicket a ball later.
Leach stuck to his guns, finding a good length wide outside the off stump and aiming for the footmarks, but Pant continued to hit him over the top, launching him for two more sixes in his first spell. With the spotlight on Pant, Pujara then benefitted as the spinners missed their lengths, pulling well off the back foot and working singles and twos at will. Both men reached their half-centuries with boundaries in the 40th over: Pujara's came from 106 balls, Pant's off 40.
The seamers returned after tea without managing to stem the steady flow, though Anderson struck Pujara on the glove with an in-dipper from a length that reared up off the pitch. Pujara continued to score freely against Bess when he returned, but then fell to a stroke of bad luck: rocking back to a long-hop, he pulled Bess into Pope's back as he took evasive action at short leg, with the ball looping up into Rory Burns' hands at midwicket.
Pant continued to attack Leach, but then fell to Bess: he charged down the pitch, but lost his shape as the ball turned away from the bat, and holed out to Leach in the deep on the off side. Ashwin and Sundar saw India through to stumps with a useful stand - Sundar was dropped on 25, Archer shelling the catch running back - but England remained in the ascendancy at stumps.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98

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