England’s hopes of chasing down a staggering 399 to win the second Test were dwindling fast on the fourth morning as wickets tumbled in Visakhapatnam.
The tourists delivered on their promise to embrace all out attack as they pursued their highest ever fourth-innings target but reached lunch in deep trouble on 194 for six.
With 205 still needed and Ben Stokes the last recognised batter, England appeared to be all out of miracles as India’s bowlers flexed their muscles.
Zak Crawley was alone in getting to grips with the challenge, making an impressive 73 before falling just before the break, but Ollie Pope and Joe Root both paid the price for their ultra-aggressive approach.
England scored 127 runs in the session but the price tag of five wickets was too steep as the hosts closed in on a series levelling win.
Rehan Ahmed, promoted late on Sunday evening as England’s so-called ‘nighthawk’, was first down for 23 as he stayed back to an Axar Patel delivery that kept low and trapped him lbw.
His contribution was always likely to be a bonus and the arrival of Pope felt like the start of the real contest. He proceeded to stroke his first ball to the cover boundary, signalling his intent from the off.
Pope hit five boundaries in quick time, all off Patel, but the Surrey man was keeping the bowlers interested too. His rush for runs quickly caught up with him when he slashed at a good ball from Ashwin, who had Rohit Sharma to thank for a brilliant one-handed catch at slip.
Crawley was showing greater authority at the other end, converting his overnight score of 29 into a polished half-century. Twice he showed the full face of the bat and drove star seamer Jasprit Bumrah back down the ground and he used his long stride well to manufacture a half-volley off Patel.
The next ball was perilously close to pinning him lbw, saved by the umpire’s call on DRS, and he was gone in Ashwin’s next over. Rather than relying on timing he threw the kitchen sink at a slog-sweep and sprayed a leading edge off the toe end.
He has been carrying a painful finger injury for the past 24 hours and it is hard to know much trouble that was causing. But it was, by any measure, a frazzled innings and took his series tally to 52 in four attempts.
Crawley now had the responsibility of making the big century England needed to stay alive but it was not to be. Mis-reading the wrist-spin of Kuldeep Yadav as he attack from a leg-stump line, he was given lbw after a smart review by Sharma.
That was more than enough to give Indian the upper hand but with the ball beginning to reverse swing, Bumrah had one more up his sleeve. Jonny Bairstow was the victim this time, lbw after being beaten by a sliver of seam movement in the last over before the break.