DOM Bess took four wickets as England tightened their grip on the first Test in Chennai as India were reduced to 257-6 at the end of day three.
After the tourists were bowled out for 578 early in the day, Jofra Archer (2-52) accounted for both openers before the off-spinner claimed the prize scalp of Virat Kohli for 11 and, with the help of a stunning catch from Joe Root, added the wicket of Ajinkya Rahane soon after to leave the hosts 73-4.
India countered with a 119-run stand for the fifth wicket between the effervescent Rishabh Pant (91 from 88 balls) and Cheteshwar Pujara (73) but Bess (4-55) persevered and removed them both in the evening session.
A stubborn seventh-wicket stand between Washington Sundar (33no) and Ravichandran Ashwin (8no) helped India safely through to the close but they still trail by 321 runs heading into day four.
England began the day hoping the tail could add a few more to their overnight 555-8 and boundaries from Bess (34) and Jack Leach (14no) helped them to 578 when the final wicket went down, the former trapped lbw by Jasprit Bumrah (3-84) with the first ball of the third new ball before Ashwin (3-146) bowled Jimmy Anderson (1).
The game then went into fast-forward with the start of India’s innings. The home side went at more than four-an-over in the 14 overs they batted before lunch but lost Rohit Sharma (6) and Shubman Gill (29) to Archer in the process as the surface in Chennai showed signs that it was just beginning to break up.
England went on the offensive with their seamers and while Anderson struggled to get his line quite right and Archer offered up a few loose deliveries, the latter, in particular, was also causing a few problems for the batsman.
Having gone past the edge in his first over, Archer found it in his second with a ball that nipped away marginally off the surface to Rohit and, crucially, bounced a little more than the opener anticipated to get the nick through to Jos Buttler.
At the other end, 21-year-old Gill looked in supreme form, hitting five sweetly-timed boundaries through the legside, with anything even fractionally too straight punished.
Ben Stokes came on to challenge him with some short stuff from around the wicket and Archer rattled him on the gloves, ensuring the batsman knew he would not have it all his own way, and in his next over, the fast bowler had his man.
Gill had just drilled another boundary through midwicket and was after another, only to get through his shot too early and chip the ball to Jimmy Anderson, who dived forward from mid-on to take a superb catch.
Pujara and Kohli were able to take India to the interval without any further damage but it did not take England long after lunch to inflict more as Bess produced an excellent delivery that drifted away from the right-hander, the deviated just a fraction but that was enough to take the inside edge and Ollie Pope took a good catch at short leg.
Rahane (1) came in but lasted only six balls as he fell to a brilliant one-handed catch from Root, the England skipper diving to his left to grab it at cover after the India vice-captain was undone by some late dip as he met Bess’ delivery on the full.
India were in trouble but Pujara was batting with typical assurance and Pant, coming off a match-winning knock in Australia, started confidently, albeit a little more watchfully than usual.
That all changed with the introduction of Leach to try and attack the left-hander using the large patches of rough outside his off stump. Pant knew what was coming and was not about to sit back and wait for it to happen, instead choosing to skip down the pitch to the left-arm spinner’s first ball and hit him into the stands.
He added another later in the over and the pattern of play was set. Pant remained watchful again Bess at one end, the ball turning away providing no immediate danger out of the foot holes, and never mind the sink, Pant threw just about every kitchen implement he could find at Leach at the other.
The result was four fours and four sixes on his way to a 40-ball half-century a few balls after Pujara, who had also been able to get after Leach, went to his own more becalmed fifty from 106 balls in the penultimate over before tea.
Leach had a few overs off at the start of the evening session but when he returned, Pant’s approach was the same and he moved into the 80s with another big six.
The partnership reached 119 but just when England might have begun to wonder where a wicket was coming from, they got one with a huge slice of luck.
A rare drag-down from Bess was smashed by Pujara, hit Pope at short leg but bounced up off his shoulder to Rory Burns at midwicket. Pujara was dismayed but England had their breakthrough.
Pant reined in his all-action approach for the next couple of overs but could not resist for much longer, Bess tempted him with a floaty delivery, wide of off stump and in trying to hammer the ball over long off, the left-hander sliced it high into the offside and Leach took the catch to claim some sort of revenge.(Sky Sports)
ENGLAND 1st innings
Rory Burns c Rishabh Pant b Ravichandran Ashwin 33
Dominic Sibley lbw Jasprit Bumrah 87
Dan Lawrence lbw Jasprit Bumrah 0
Joe Root lbw Shahbaz Nadeem 218
Ben Stokes c Cheteshwar Pujara b Shahbaz Nadeem 82
Ollie Pope lbw Ravichandran Ashwin 34
Jos Buttler b Ishant Sharma 30
Dom Bess lbw Jasprit Bumrah 34
Jofra Archer b Ishant Sharma 0
Jack Leach Not Out 14
James Anderson b Ravichandran Ashwin 1
Extras 7b 17lb 20nb 0pen 1w 45
Total (190.1 overs) 578 all out
Fall of Wickets : 1-63 Burns, 2-63 Lawrence, 3-263 Sibley, 4-387 Stokes, 5-473 Pope, 6-477 Root, 7-525 Buttler, 8-525 Archer, 9-567 Bess, 10-578 Anderson
Bowling : Ishant Sharma 27 – 7 – 52 – 2 (5nb), Jasprit Bumrah 36 – 7 – 84 – 3 (1w 7nb),
Ravichandran Ashwin 55.1 – 5 – 146 – 3 (2nb), Shahbaz Nadeem 44 – 4 – 167 – 2 (6nb),
Washington Sundar 26 – 2 – 98 – 0.
INDIA 1st innings
Rohit Sharma c Jos Buttler b Jofra Archer 6
Shubman Gill c James Anderson b Jofra Archer 29
Cheteshwar Pujara c Rory Burns b Dom Bess 73
Virat Kohli c Ollie Pope b Dom Bess 11
Ajinkya Rahane c Joe Root b Dom Bess 1
Rishabh Pant c Jack Leach b Dom Bess 91
Washington Sundar Not Out 33
Ravichandran Ashwin Not Out 8
Extras 4b 1lb 0nb 0pen 0w 5
Total (74.0 overs) 257-6
Fall of Wickets : 1-19 Sharma, 2-44 Gill, 3-71 Kohli, 4-73 Rahane, 5-192 Pujara, 6-225 Pant
To Bat : Sharma, Bumrah, Nadeem
Bowling : James Anderson 11 – 3 – 34 – 0, Jofra Archer 16 – 3 – 52 – 2,
Ben Stokes 6 – 1 – 16 – 0, Jack Leach 17 – 2 – 94 – 0, Dom Bess 23 – 5 – 55 – 4.