England’s Joe Root perched himself atop the pantheon of greats, when he became the first player to score a “phenomenal” double century in his 100th Test as India were made to toil for the second day running at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on Saturday.
Root's epic 218 in the opening Test of a four-match series against India was his second double ton in three Tests, carrying his red-hot form from Sri Lanka to underline his dominance against spin in the Asian sub-continent.
England rode on skipper Root's masterclass to reach 550 for eight at stumps on day two. Dom Bess, on 28, and Jack Leach on six, were at the crease.
England have now made all three of the most recent 500+ totals against India in India, dating back to their series win in 2012.
Resuming on 128 overnight, Root reached the remarkable milestone by lofting a six, as he smartly kept India's spinners at bay in his 377-ball marathon, extending his golden run that followed match-winning scores of 228 and 186 against Sri Lanka in Tests played last month.
The 30-year-old’s five double hundreds puts him second behind Wally Hammond's seven among English batsmen.
It is the first Test double hundred against India since Brendon McCullum's 302 in 2014 and the first double ton against India in India since McCullum's 225 in 2010.
Root let Ben Stokes dominate their 124-run partnership for the fourth wicket only adding 28 runs to his overnight score in the morning, though it was enough to make him the seventh player to make 150+ scores in three consecutive Tests.
“He's in phenomenal form, just making things look very easy and the way he plays, well - dominates - spin is incredible to watch,” said Stokes, who smashed 10 fours and three sixes in his 82 from 118 balls which was his first knock in six months.
Stokes asserted himself early, hitting Ashwin over his head for a six. India's desperation showed when they blew reviews after lbw appeals against Stokes and Root were turned down.
“I don't think we've had an England batsman play spin in the way that he does. He's just got an answer for everything that's thrown at him, and it's just a delight to watch at the moment,” said the left-hander Stokes, who hit his 23rd Test half-century before falling to Shahbaz Nadeem's left-arm spin.
Root prevailed in a duel with Ashwin, hitting the off-spinner for a six to bring up his fifth test double-hundred and third as captain.
Incidentally Ashwin officially bowled the first no-ball of his Test career since the third umpire started calling no-balls in Test matches.
After Stokes' wicket, Root and Ollie Pope frustrated the Indian bowlers before Ashwin broke through.
He trapped Pope lbw for 34 and Nadeem got Root's prized scalp with a delivery that straightened up to hit the batsman's pad.
Root reviewed the call but replays showed the ball would have hit leg stump.
In a gesture of appreciation, the Indian skipper Virat Kohli was seen shaking hands with his opposite number, as he walked back to the pavilion.
Ishant Sharma gave India a boost late in the day, dismissing Jos Buttler and Jofra Archer in successive deliveries to reach 299 Test wickets, with Jack Leach denying him a hat-trick.
Bess, who was dropped on 19 by Rohit Sharma who spilled an easy chance at mid-wicket off Washington Sundar, and Leach then took their team to the close, in an unbroken stand that yielded 30 runs.