England will need to chase down 366 to win the fourth Test against India on day five, a total which would be their highest-ever successful run chase
After a magnificent hundred from Rohit Sharma on day three saw India take control of the fourth Test, Virat Kohli’s drove home their advantage on day four and set England a record 366 to win.
England were in desperate need of early wickets on day four and Chris Woakes delivered two early on, first getting Ravi Jadeja out LBW for 17.
Ajinkya Rahane, once again batting lower down the order, joined Virat Kohli at the crease and initially survived an LBW shout that was overturned on review.
Rahane has struggled for runs so far this series and lasted just five more balls before Woakes got him given out LBW again, a decision Rahane decided not to review this time.
Kohli, meanwhile, had looked good at the crease and reached 44 before Moeen Ali managed to get him caught at slip, with India falling from 296-3 to 312-6.
However, Rishabh Pant and Shardul Thakur then shared an invaluable partnership worth 100 runs, with the two explosive batters both scoring half-centuries before getting out to England’s spinners.
India were eventually bowled out for 466, with Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj adding 25, 24 and four respectively.
That left England needing to chase down 368 to win – a total which would be their highest ever successful run chase.
In response, England reached the close of play on 77-0, with Rory Burns on 31 and Haseeb Hameed on 43 to set up a potential grandstand finish on day five.
Here are five talking points from the day’s play.
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Woakes impresses again
Woakes has enjoyed a magnificent return to Test cricket, picking up 4-55 in India’s first innings and then scoring 50 in England’s.
Although he was unable to pick up any wickets on day three, Woakes struck early on day four, dismissing both Jadeja and Rahane LBW.
Speaking on BBC Test Match Special, former England batter Ebony Rainford-Brent said: “Well done to Chris Woakes today, he has looked much sharper today. He has given England some momentum.”
Rahane’s struggles continue
India’s vice-captain has struggled massively on this tour, making just 109 runs at an average of 15.57.
Rahane dropped down the order to number six in this Test, with Jadeja promoted to five in what appeared to be an attempt to shield the struggling Rahane.
However, it has not gone to plan, with the 33-year-old getting out cheaply in both innings at The Oval.
Overton got him caught at slip for 14 in the first innings and Woakes was all over him in the second innings, getting him out LBW for a duck.
Speaking on BBC Test Match Special, former England captain Michael Vaughan said: “Rahane looks like a player that has ‘gone’. It is full and straight – that is a mind that is not quite with it.”
Pant and Thakur’s partnership
Despite England’s early inroads, India avoided a quick collapse with Pant and Thakur sharing a 100-run partnership.
Thakur had already smacked the fastest-ever Test 50 at The Oval in the first innings and he continued his form in the second innings, scoring 60 off just 72 balls.
Pant, meanwhile, was a bit more watchful but he also reached his half-century, scoring 50 off 106 balls and helping India stretch their lead past the 300-run mark.
Speaking on BBC Test Match Special, former England bowler Jonathan Agnew said: “Thakur has really shone in this partnership. He was violent in the first innings but this one has been more sedate. This partnership is putting the game beyond England.”
Root reluctant to turn to spin
On a day four pitch at The Oval, you would expect the spinner to do a lot of bowling but England were reluctant to chuck the ball to Ali after he was expensive on day three.
When Ali did get the ball, he took the wicket of Kohli in his first over in the start of a short seven over spell.
Root then went back to the seamers again as Pant and Thakur’s partnership began to grow, before he and Ali were brought into the attack and removed them in their respective first overs.
Speaking on Sky Sports, legendary Australian spinner Shane Warne said: “I think spin should have dominated play today, day four at the Oval is hard work.
“There was hardly any spin bowled and they probably should have bowled earlier. I think Joe Root has probably under-bowled himself.”
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Burns and Hameed start well
With England needing to complete a record chase to win this game, it was imperative that their two openers got off to a good start.
Both Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed were dismissed cheaply in the first innings, but they managed to safely negotiate their way to the close of play on day four in the second innings.
The duo shared an unbeaten 77-run partnership and ensured that England start day five with a chance, albeit a slim one, of winning the Test.
Speaking on BBC Test Match Special, former England spinner Phil Tufnell said: “Well played Burns and Hameed, that is the perfect scenario. None down, went at a nice clip and we come back tomorrow daring to dream.”