Joe Root falls late as India hit back after England dismiss them for 191

The fourth Test opened with the clatter of 13 wickets and, when the last of these fell moments before the close, Joe Root looking back at a set of stumps freshly rearranged by Umesh Yadav, the mood changed significantly.

Root had been the captain in the ascendancy up to this point, having won the toss, asked India to bat and been rewarded with a relentless performance from an attack augmented by the return of Chris Woakes. The all-rounder claimed four for 55 and the tourists were bowled out for 191 in just shy of 62 overs.

But come stumps India felt better about life with England 53 for three. This began with the cheap removals of Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed, the pair unable to repeat the century stand witnessed at Headingley as Jasprit Bumrah bowled the former off the inside edge for five and then had the latter caught behind trying to open his account with an uppercut.

Neither compared with the removal of Root, however, when his run of golden form was halted on 21 by the recalled Yadav. Dawid Malan will resume first thing, unbeaten on 21, but even if England’s No 3 looks as assured as he did in the final hour, Craig Overton alongside him as nightwatchman presents a chance to open up an end.

The day looked set to be defined by a rather meek performance from India’s batsmen and Woakes impressing on his return to the ranks. That was until Shardul Thakur blazed 57 from 36 balls after tea from No 8, his half-century reached in the space of just 31 to make it the fastest witnessed in a Test match on English soil.

Ian Botham’s famous 32-ball effort against New Zealand on this ground in 1986 was the previous record and there was more than a touch of Lord Beefy – the all-rounder, not the trade envoy – when Ollie Robinson was hooked for a handsome square six to bring up the milestone. It could yet prove a game-changing intervention.

Either way Thakur’s salvo of seven fours and three sixes – some cultured, others agri-cultured – eased some of the disappointment that had come before. Virat Kohli was the only member of India’s top seven to reach 50 and even then it followed a life on 22 when Woakes found the outside edge and Root grassed a tough catch at first slip.

Shardul Thakur smashes a boundary.
Shardul Thakur smashes a boundary. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

England put down four chances overall – one by Jonny Bairstow on an otherwise energetic return behind the stumps – and Woakes was twice the thwarted bowler. But though denied a five-wicket haul by this profligacy, the 32-year-old could still reflect on a fine comeback following a 12-month absence caused by the vagaries of the pandemic and an unfortunate trip down his stairs at his home in July.

Woakes certainly changed a morning in which India eased to 28 for no loss after 40 minutes but stumbled into lunch on 54 for three. His sixth ball was a beauty to remove Rohit Sharma caught behind – back of length, jagging away – and came in a run of seven maidens alongside Robinson during which the latter trapped KL Rahul lbw on review.

When the previously loose Jimmy Anderson switched to the Pavilion End and nicked off Cheteshwar Pujara for four with a classical outswinger, the session belonged to England and a degree of momentum from Headingley had seemingly rolled over.

Pujara’s latest demise had prompted the curious emergence of Ravindra Jadeja at No 5, with his fellow spinner Ravichandran Ashwin once again asked to carry the drinks. The experiment failed, however, with Jadeja’s tame prod to first slip on 10 after the interval handing Woakes his second shortly after Kohli’s reprieve.

This was only a mild consolation prize, with India’s captain looking in otherwise ominous touch en route to a second successive half-century in which he drove with confidence. But 50 was as good as it got for Kohli, Robinson following a string of tempters outside off stump with one that decked in and found the edge.

Neither Ajinkya Rahane or Rishabh Pant offered much resistance. Overton became the fourth seamer to strike when the former edged to Moeen Ali at gully and Woakes profited from the latest frenetic Pant innings when the wicketkeeper, fresh from surviving a drop at third slip, was caught at mid-off attempting a wild hack.

From 127 for seven Thakur achieved what Pant could not, his display of derring-do offering the first chance for India’s Bharat Army to fire up the drums while driving England to distraction. Woakes finally shut down the fun, trapping the all-rounder lbw on review and both Bumrah and Yadav disappeared soon after.

But when this pair of lively Indian seamers got the ball in hand things started to happen for them, too, and three England batsmen were dismissed.

Root, the world’s new No 1 batsman, was among them and a series in which the two sides are locked at 1-1 with two to play had delivered yet another memorable day.


Ali Martin at the Kia Oval

The GuardianTramp

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