Ishant, Ashwin put India in driver's seat

Ishant, Ashwin put India in driver's seat

India paceman Ishant Sharma celebrates after dismissing England's Jonny Bairstow in the second innings of the first Test at Edgbaston on Friday. Reuters

Seasoned campaigners R Ashwin and Ishant Sharma breathed fire as India took a massive step towards victory in the opening Test against England here on Friday.

After Ashwin (3/34), bowling an exceptionally well non-stop spell in the morning session, prised out Keaton Jennings and skipper Joe Root, a charged up Ishant (3/34) sent back Dawid Malan, Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes to leave England reeling at 86/6 at lunch on day two. With England just 99 runs ahead, India will be hoping to clean up the lower order as soon as possible and complete a stunning victory inside three days.

Kohli chose to start Ashwin with the new ball and the off-spinner excelled for a third day in a row. He kept bowling a probing line to Jennings especially, his trajectory from around the wicket constantly troubling the left-hander. The young opener finally perished when he prodded forward, the ball spinning away and taking the edge. KL Rahul completed a fine catch as India drew first blood in just the fourth over of the day.

Another left-hander Malan walked in but he too struggled against Ashwin, hardly able to read the off-spinner. He tried to counter-attack in between but he knew it was fraught with danger. The constant pressure from Ashwin forced Root into playing a poor shot that cost his wicket. Despite two fielders at leg-slip, he tried flicking and Rahul took another fine catch as England were reduced to 39/3.

The strong England middle-order then had the onerous task of staging a fightback but they succumbed to the brilliance of Ishant. The seamer first sent back Malan with a peach that broke a 21-run partnership. The out-swinger squared Malan up and the thick outside edge was easily taken by Ajinkya Rahane at gully.

Ishant then scalped two more in a space of three balls at the stroke of lunch to put India in a commanding position. He first induced an edge off Bairstow with another top quality ball before dismissing Stokes with a peach.

Brief scores: England: 287 &  86/6 (Bairstow 28; Ashwin 3-34, Ishant Sharma 3-21) vs India: 274.