India close in on victory as England struggle in record chase

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    England lose six wickets before lunch on day four

    England’s hopes of pulling off a miraculous win in the second Test against India faded away as they lost six wickets before lunch on day four in Visakhapatnam. Chasing a record 399 to win, England resumed at 53 for 3 and soon slipped to 194 for 6 at the break, still needing 205 runs with only four wickets in hand.

    The visitors had no answer to India’s spinners, who exploited the deteriorating pitch and extracted sharp turn and bounce. Ravichandran Ashwin, who took four wickets in the first innings, added three more to his tally, while Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav chipped in with one each.

    England’s overnight batsmen, Ollie Pope and Jonny Bairstow, started cautiously and added 35 runs for the fourth wicket. Pope, who scored a brilliant 196 in the first innings, looked solid and played some confident strokes. However, he fell victim to a stunning catch by Rohit Sharma at leg slip off Ashwin for 28. Sharma anticipated the flick shot and dived to his left to pluck the ball out of thin air.

    Bairstow and Stokes offer some resistance

    Bairstow was joined by Ben Stokes, who was leading England in the absence of the injured Joe Root. The pair tried to rebuild the innings and showed some positive intent. Bairstow, who was playing his first Test since 2019, reached his half-century with a boundary off Patel. Stokes, who scored 70 in the first innings, also looked in good touch and hit a couple of sixes off Kuldeep.

     victory as England struggle

    However, just when England seemed to be gaining some momentum, India struck twice in quick succession. Patel trapped Bairstow lbw for 52 with a straighter one that skidded on. Bairstow reviewed the decision, but the ball was shown to be clipping the leg stump. In the next over, Ashwin removed Stokes for 32 with a beauty that spun sharply from outside off and took the edge of the bat. Srikar Bharat, the debutant wicketkeeper, took a fine catch behind the stumps.

    India tighten the grip

    England’s lower order had no answer to India’s spin assault and crumbled under pressure. Rehan Ahmed, the 17-year-old debutant, was caught by Bharat off Ashwin for 13. Tom Hartley, another debutant, was bowled by Kuldeep for 23. Shoaib Bashir, the third debutant in the England XI, survived a close lbw appeal off Ashwin, but was run out by a direct hit from Mukesh Kumar for 4.

    England went into lunch with Ben Foakes and James Anderson at the crease, with little hope of saving the match. India, who lost the first Test in Hyderabad by 28 runs, were on the verge of levelling the five-match series.

    India dominate with bat and ball

    India had earlier dominated the match with both bat and ball. After winning the toss and opting to bat, they posted a mammoth 396 in their first innings, thanks to centuries from Shubman Gill and Shreyas Iyer. Gill scored 136, his maiden Test hundred, while Iyer made 105 on his debut. Ashwin also contributed with a valuable 58.

    England were bowled out for 253 in their first innings, conceding a huge lead of 143 runs. Pope was the only batsman to offer some resistance, scoring a magnificent 196, his maiden Test double hundred. He shared a 152-run stand with Stokes for the fifth wicket, but the rest of the batting collapsed. Jasprit Bumrah was the pick of the bowlers for India, taking 6 for 45, his best figures in Tests.

    India did not enforce the follow-on and decided to bat again. They scored 255 in their second innings, setting England a daunting target of 399. Rohit Sharma top-scored with 72, while Yashasvi Jaiswal and Rajat Patidar made 41 and 40 respectively. Mark Wood was the most successful bowler for England, taking 4 for 64.

    India will be hoping to wrap up the match quickly after lunch and level the series. England will need a miracle to survive or chase down the target.

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