England embark on record chase as India push for Oval win and series lead

By Sports Desk September 05, 2021

England set up a tantalising fifth day of the fourth Test by making immediate inroads after India set them a record run chase at The Oval.

Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed chipped away at the target of 368, reaching 31 and 43 respectively, as England advanced to 77-0 at stumps.

Armed with a 99-run first-innings lead, England's hopes of establishing a lead in this series were dealt a huge blow after India totted up 466 batting second time around.

However, there remains the possibility of a famous home victory. Should England pull this off, they will take a 2-1 lead heading to the final Test at Old Trafford, but they would have to beat the highest total ever posted by a team winning against India from a fourth-innings chase.

That is currently the 342-8 achieved by Australia in 1977 at Perth. Tony Mann hit a century for Australia in that win and England need at least one batsman to step up and make a big score to anchor this innings.

There were positive signs as openers Burns and Hameed put on a half-century partnership, with Haseeb surviving a late lbw appeal as India used up a review, but England are still 291 short.

Earlier on day four, Rishabh Pant made 50, ending a run of three single-figure scores. Shardul Thakur plundered his second half-century of this match, adding 60 to his first-innings 57, prospering with the bat in the fourth Test match of his career and second of this tour.

Pant rode his luck, with England blowing a glorious chance to run him out when he was on 37. Pant set off for a run before scampering back, and Moeen Ali had the first chance to throw down the stumps. He missed, and Hameed, backing up, fumbled the ball when Pant was still well short of his ground.

Home captain Joe Root broke up a partnership of 100 when he had Thakur caught by Craig Overton at slip, and Moeen struck moments later to remove Pant when he took a sharp return chance off his own bowling as the India batsman looked to go over the top.

India were eight down, but their lead was 315, and the runs kept coming, Umesh Yadav flogging Moeen for a brazen six over cow corner, before hoiking a delivery Woakes over the ropes too. His 25 from 23 balls, plus 24 from Jasprit Bumrah, left England staring at their daunting target.

BURNS SEES OFF DUCK DANGER

It has been a year of mixed fortunes at Test level for Burns, who has five ducks in 2021 on England duty. When he has got off the mark, however, it has often been a different story, with Burns, including this ongoing knock, making 460 at an average for those innings of 51.11.

HAMEED CAN COME OF AGE

There are Ashes places at stake, and the high-tension moments that await England on Monday can be considered comparable to those that may await in Australia. One-time boy wonder Hameed can book his place on the plane, surely, if he converts this strong start into something special. His Test best of 82 came almost five years ago, and to top that here would give England a terrific platform.

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