LONDON: England were set a daunting target of 368 to win the fourth Test against India at the Oval on Sunday after the tourists were bowled out for 466 in their second innings on the fourth day.
Rohit Sharma top-scored with 127 — the opener’s first Test match hundred away from home — and put on 153 for the second wicket with Cheteshwar Pujara (61).
Rishabh Pant (50) and fit-again all-rounder Shardul Thakur (60) added to England’s woes with a seventh-wicket stand of exactly 100.
Tailenders Umesh Yadav (25) and Jasprit Bumrah (24) kept the runs coming, with England all-rounder Chris Woakes continuing a fine return to Test duty by taking 3-83 in 32 overs.
England now need to set a new national record if they are to go 2-1 up in this five-match series, with their previous highest fourth-innings total to win a Test their 362-9, requiring 359, against Australia at Headingley in 2019.
But Ben Stokes, whose brilliant unbeaten century saw England to that nailbiting one-wicket win, is not playing in this series while the all-rounder takes a mental health break from all cricket.
India’s number eight batsman Thakur smashed his second fifty of the match and Pant his first of the series in a strong recovery by the touring side who lost three wickets, including captain Virat Kohli, after resuming on 270-3.
Kohli’s partnership with Ravindra Jadeja had yielded 59 runs when Joe Root brought back Woakes and the all-rounder, playing his first Test in 12 months, responded with two quick wickets.
Woakes trapped Jadeja plumb in front for 17, and three balls later, Ajinkya Rahane was also adjudged lbw after leaving a delivery.
The India vice-captain reviewed the decision and survived after replays confirmed the ball would have gone just over the stumps.
There was no such doubt in Woakes’ next over, however, when he beat Rahane’s tentative bat and hit the pad to dismiss the out-of-form batsman for a duck.
When Moeen had Kohli (44) caught behind to leave India 312-6 in the morning session, the game was on a knife edge with the tourists 213 ahead.
A couple more quick wickets might even have left England as slight favorites, but instead Pant and Thakur piled on 100 in 155 morale-sapping balls.
Thakur had smashed a 36-ball 57 in the first innings and he followed with a relatively restrained 60, which included a towering six off Ollie Robinson.
Both batsmen, however, fell in successive overs — Thakur edging Root to slip and Pant giving a return catch to Moeen soon after completing his fifty.
Even then, Yadav and Bumrah played freely as they topped the total up with the series tied at 1-1.
INDIA (1st Innings) 191 (S.N. Thakur 57, V. Kohli 50; C.R. Woakes 4-55, O.E. Robinson 3-38).
ENGLAND (1st Innings) 290 (O.J.D. Pope 81, C.R. Woakes 50; U.T. Yadav 3-76).
INDIA (2nd Innings, overnight 270-3):
R.G. Sharma c Woakes b Robinson127
K.L. Rahul c Bairstow b Anderson46
C.A. Pujara c Moeen b Robinson61
V. Kohli c Overton b Moeen44
R.A. Jadeja lbw b Woakes17
A.M. Rahane lbw b Woakes0
R.R. Pant c and b Moeen50
S.N. Thakur c Overton b Root60
U.T. Yadav c Moeen b Overton25
J.J. Bumrah c Moeen b Woakes24
Mohammed Siraj not out3
EXTRAS (LB-7, NB-2)9
TOTAL (all out, 148.2 overs)466
FALL OF WKTS: 1-83, 2-236, 3-237, 4-296, 5-296, 6-312, 7-412, 8-414, 9-450.
BOWLING: Anderson 33-10-79-1; Robinson 32-7-105-2 (1nb); Woakes 32-8-83-3 (1nb); Overton 18.2-3-58-1; Moeen 26-0-118-2; Root 7-1-16-1.
Published in Dawn, September 6th, 2021