Shardul Thakur and Rishabh Pant gave India a shot at victory in the fourth Test with a seventh-wicket partnership of 100 but England openers Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed led a fightback to leave the game superbly poised going into the final day.
At stumps on Day 4 at the Oval, England were 77 for 0 chasing 368, needing a further 291 runs for what would be a remarkable win.
India's captain Virat Kohli alters his field during play on the fourth day of the fourth cricket Test match between England and India at the Oval cricket ground in London on September 5, 2021. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. NO ASSOCIATION WITH DIRECT COMPETITOR OF SPONSOR, PARTNER, OR SUPPLIER OF THE ECB
Only two teams have made more than 215 in the fourth innings of a Test to beat India — Australia with 342-8 at Perth in 1977/78 — and West Indies, who made 276-5 at Delhi in 1987/88.
England's Rory Burns (R) plays a shot during play on the fourth day of the fourth cricket Test match between England and India at the Oval cricket ground in London on September 5, 2021.
Hameed (43) and Burns (31) started well as the pitch had little help for bowlers, as is evident from India’s score.
The pacers found nothing going their way while Ravindra Jadeja got help from the rough. India are also one review down, Mohammed Siraj thinking he had Haseeb Hameed trapped lbw in vain.
But the runs kept coming, with Umesh Yadav hoisting Moeen for six while fellow tailender Jasprit Bumrah thumped Chris Woakes wide of mid-off for four — even more worryingly for England, key batsman Root was left hobbling after trying to intercept the ball.
India resumed on 270-3, already 171 runs ahead.Rohit Sharma had led the way with 127, his first overseas Test century, and together with Cheteshwar Pujara (61) he frustrated England during a second-wicket partnership of 153 — although it would have been a different story had not Sharma been missed twice in the slips.
India in their second innings stretched their score to 466 setting England 368, after Thakur had made 60 — the fit-again all-rounder’s second half-century this match — and wicketkeeper Pant 50.
But Pant, sensibly playing himself in rather than recklessly giving his wicket away as he’d done so often this series and Thakur, fit following a hamstring injury that had kept him out since the drawn first Test in Nottingham, were in fine form.
And such was Thakur’s command, with the ball no longer deviating in the air or off the pitch for England’s quicks, he had no trouble in spotting a deliberately slower delivery from seamer Ollie Robinson and driving it high over long-on for six.
They took the game away from England’s tiring pace attack on a good pitch, with a sunny day ideal for batting.
Thakur carried on from his first-innings 57 by driving off-spinner Moeen Ali through the covers and Craig Overton down the ground for two well-struck fours.
The match was still somewhat in the balance when India captain Virat Kohli was out for 44 before lunch, with the tourists then 312-6, a lead of 213 runs.