Ali Martin’s report has landed, so I’ll leave you with that. See you in the morning: 11am, don’t be late. I promise you, it’ll be very.
England looked in all sorts for much of the day. Now, while India remain favourites, they have a tantalising chance of an incredible victory. England need to score 291 runs to win, or bat 540 balls to draw. India need 10 wickets. Whatever happens - and to be completely fair to the human race, none of us have a solitary clue - it is likely to be epic.
Close of play
32nd over: England 77-0 (Burns 31, Hameed 43) Burns turns Jadeja to short leg, takes an instinctive step outside his crease and is almost in trouble when the substitute Yadav grabs the ball and throws it at the stumps in the same movement. It missed and ran away from two overthrows, though I think Burns was safe anyway.
Later in the over he fences a nastily delivery between short leg and leg slip, and that’s the end of yet another brain-meltingly brilliant day’s play.
31st over: England 75-0 (Burns 29, Hameed 43) That was an understandably desperate review from India - not just because they need a wicket but because they are bowling for exactly that dismissal. Siraj has been bowling really straight, so much so that earlier in the over Hameed flicked two errant deliveries to fine leg for four.
“With all the discussion around Ashwin, his stats in 3rd and 4th innings, outside India, beg another look,” says Dev. “Nothing of note there. He has bowled a lot in flat conditions. Even in Surrey, his second innings 6-fer came against a second div side, in a game where Virdi matched his exploits. So would Ashwin have created a difference on this pitch?”
That’s really interesting. With the caveat that nobody knows anything, my feeling is that he would have made a difference because this is almost a day two/three pitch for the seamers and a day four/five pitch for the spinners.
HAMEED IS NOT OUT!
It wasn’t tight at all - it was bouncing over and India lose a review.
INDIA REVIEW FOR LBW AGAINST HAMEED! This is really tight, possibly umpire’s call on height.
30th over: England 67-0 (Burns 29, Hameed 35) With only a few overs until the close, India are surrounding Burns when Jadeja is bowling: slip, silly point, leg slip, short leg. An appeal for a bat-pad catch is turned down, and Burns kicks away as much of the over as possible. He has 29 from 103 balls, Hameed 35 from 79 balls. And Jadeja, whose first six overs cost 24, has conceded only two runs off the last six.
29th over: England 67-0 (Burns 29, Hameed 35) Hameed pokes down the wrong line at a straight ball from Siraj and is fortunate to edge the ball past his off stump for four. He takes a slightly iffy single off the next ball, though I think he’d have been home even if the substitute Mayank Agarwal’s throw had hit the stumps.
“With Burns, Hameed, Root, Malan, Bairstow and Pope in some kind of nick (except Root who is in all sorts of nick) and a handy Woakes… why should England not think they can go for the win?” says Shankar Mony. “India has one strike bowler and three fourth bowlers and no Ashwin. Am I missing something?”
Thing is, we have had this conversation so many times over the years, and 97 per cent of the time it doesn’t come to pass. I think the first time I heard folk saying that the team batting last could chase down a big target was at Edgbaston in 1990. Spoiler: they didn’t.
England do have a chance, certainly on this pitch. But I think they will go into their shell if/when they start losing wickets and then the required rate will become prohibitive. That said, imagine if they need, say, 50 off the last 12 overs with three wickets remaining.
28th over: England 61-0 (Burns 28, Hameed 30) At the risk of adding stat to the wound, Ravichandran Ashwin has taken more fourth-innings wickets in Test victories – 65 at an average of 16 - than any other Indian bowler. But Jadeja’s all they’ve got, and actually he is starting to look much more dangerous to Burns in particular.
27th over: England 61-0 (Burns 28, Hameed 30)
26th over: England 59-0 (Burns 27, Hameed 29) Burns is beaten by a delivery from Jadeja that skids straight on past the edge. Jadeja is starting to look threatening, after a poor start, and Burns misses a slog-sweep later in the over. Pant appeals for LBW but Burns was definitely outside the line.
25th over: England 59-0 (Burns 27, Hameed 29) A wide half-volley from Siraj is crashed through extra cover for four by Hameed, who is batting with encouraging authority. Just under half an hour until the close.
24th over: England 54-0 (Burns 26, Hameed 25) A good ball from Jadeja to Burns ends up in the hands of slip. India appeal for a catch off the glove; Richard Illingworth isn’t interested and Virat Kohli doesn’t review.
23rd over: England 53-0 (Burns 25, Hameed 25) Siraj continues to bowl full and straight to Hameed, which is how he dismissed him for a golden duck at Lord’s. But Hameed looks very solid at the moment, as does Burns. India doubtless had loftier ambitions at the start of the innings, but now they would be thrilled to pick up even one wicket before the close.
22nd over: England 51-0 (Burns 24, Hameed 24) Jadeja continues over the wicket to Hameed, and gets through his over so quickly that they are already changing ends as I type this sentence.
21st over: England 50-0 (Burns 24, Hameed 23) Here we go: Mohammed Siraj is coming on to replace Bumrah. Hameed works him for a single to bring up an assured fifty partnership with Burns, their second in as many Tests. A decent start from Siraj, who looks like he wants to bowl very straight.
20th over: England 49-0 (Burns 24, Hameed 22) Burns tries to slog-sweep Jadeja and is hit on the arm by a ball that growls out of the rough. “That’s the length,” says Nasser Hussaon on Sky, and Jadeja finds it two or three more times during a much better over.
19th over: England 49-0 (Burns 24, Hameed 22) Still no sign of Mohammed Siraj or Shardul Thakur. Siraj is the one; I’d have had him five overs ago. Bumrah is bowling well, of course he is, but he’s getting nothing out of the pitch at the moment.
18th over: England 48-0 (Burns 23, Hameed 22) Jadeja switches over the wicket to Hameed, with a short leg and leg slip. Hameed works the ball between them for his second boundary, a really good shot. England need another 320 runs to win. No, no yet.
“We are 10% there, with 10 wickets remaining,” says Christian Cummins. “Is that a reason to celebrate yet? Probability was never my strong point. But in any case greetings from Vienna, light good but fading.
17th over: England 43-0 (Burns 22, Hameed 18) Even allowing for the quality of the pitch, the England coaches must be pleasantly surprised by how well they have started. Bumrah hustles through another over without reward.
“Dear Rob, Dear Dan,” says Colin McKenzie. “Niall Mullen get mentioned 6 minutes apart on the OBO and MBM, that’s impressive. Though of course, I’m secretly hoping I beat it with this.”
16th over: England 42-0 (Burns 21, Hameed 18) Jadeja starts his over with a no-ball, then bowls a full toss that is cracked for three by Burns. He is bowling poorly, which will make his eventual eight-for all the more confusing for England fans.
India think Jadeja has his first wicket when a Hameed defensive stroke hits the boot and ends up in the hands of silly point. The umpires go upstairs to check, and replays show it hit both the boot and the ground before ending up in the hands of the substitute Yadav.
15th over: England 37-0 (Burns 18, Hameed 17) Even Bumrah, the unorthodox genius’s unorthodox genius, is getting nothing out of this pitch at the moment. He slips a good delivery past Burns to end the over, though even that was gunbarrel straight. Time for drinks, and a word from the Compdog.
14th over: England 37-0 (Burns 18, Hameed 17) Another harmless over from Jadeja. Laura!
“It seems, reading that list, that over half (18/35) >300 run chases have been this century,” says Niall Mullen. “Excuse me while I go and drain the joint account to place a big bet on England.”
It’s certainly more common, partly because of the pace of the game, but it’s still extremely rare. There are other reasons it has happened more this century, too, and you’ll have plenty of time to compile a comprehensive list when Mrs Mullen chucks you out.
13th over: England 34-0 (Burns 16, Hameed 16) Virat Kohli does make a bowling change - but it’s Bumrah, not Siraj, who replaces Yadav. A cracking cut stroke brings Hameed his first boundary and continues England’s disconcertingly comfortable start.
12th over: England 30-0 (Burns 16, Hameed 12) Burns hoicks a short ball from Jadeja over square leg for four. Jadeja’s length has been a bit erratic at the start of his spell.
11th over: England 25-0 (Burns 12, Hameed 11) This is the sixth over of Umesh’s spell. There’s been almost no sideways movement, and the bounce is reliable enough for Burns to pull emphatically through midwicket for four. The England balcony will be quietly thrilled with this start. I doubt it will be long before Virat Kohli turns to Mohammed Siraj, who specialises in extracting blood from a stone.
10th over: England 20-0 (Burns 8, Hameed 11) Burns mistimes a slog sweep, all along the ground to mid-on. “What a shot! What a shot boys!” shouts one of the Indian fielders, Virat Kohli possibly.
“It’s been a fantastic Test match so far,” says Henry Lubienski. “If you graphed the probability of an England win against time since Thursday morning it would probably look like a drunken sine wave. Perhaps the only thing missing has been eloquent emails proposing four-day Tests.”
You said drunken sine wave, and now I can’t get my head out of 2001.
9th over: England 18-0 (Burns 7, Hameed 10) If India don’t win this - and that remains a big if - Virat Kohli will have to answer approximately 472 questions about Ravichandran Ashwin.
“Today reminds us that we can’t rely on a battery of seamers operating at just above 80mph,” says Austen. “Need some points of difference. Here’s hoping Stone gets fit to join Wood in the Ashes. And that Adil Rashid can be persuaded to tour.”
Yes, it’s been a bad match for the RFM brigade, though fatigue was also a factor in the performances of Anderson and Robinson. There’s no chance Rashid will go on the Ashes tour; it’ll be two from Moeen, Leach and Matt Parkinson. I’d take Leach and Parkinson, but I have a feeling Joe Root will be the only spinner, certainly at Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. All things being equal, I think England’s attack for the first Test at the Gabba will be Anderson or Broad, Robinson, Woakes, Wood, Stokes and Root.
8th over: England 15-0 (Burns 7, Hameed 7) With the left-handed Burns at the crease, Virat Kohli decides to bring on his left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja. That’s a nice, aggressive move - as Shane Warne says on Sky, the new ball should really bite in the rough outside Burns’ off stump. The first two balls turn sharply back into Burns, but he’s a bit too short for the rest of the over and England milk four runs.
“Why do all your emailers think England can win?” enquires Mac Millings. “Firstly, it’s England. Secondly, Test cricket has been played on every sort of surface, in most kinds of weather, and all types of environments for the best part of 150 years, and the total number of successful fourth-innings run chases higher than 368 is 3 (three). Sure, all three have been in the last 22 years, but do you know how many Test matches have been played in that time without that happening? Seriously, do you? Because I have no idea, and I’m not going to look it up.”
When you say “3 (three)”, Mac, are you sure you didn’t mean 9 (nine)?
7th over: England 11-0 (Burns 4, Hameed 6) Yadav gets a bit of extra bounce to Hameed, who does quite well to drop the ball short of gully. Another maiden.
“Even though an England win is extremely unlikely, any of the three possible results will tell quite the story,” says Niall Mullen. “God bless you Test cricket.”
Don’t forget there are four possible results, five if you count the end of the world.
6th over: England 11-0 (Burns 4, Hameed 6) Hameed leaves a ball from Bumrah that doesn’t miss the off stump by that much. The Indian cordon are disproportionately excited, probably in an attempt to unsettle Hameed. It was close but not that close. A single from Hameed brings Burns on strike, and he clips crisply through midwicket for three. So far, so kay for England.
5th over: England 6-0 (Burns 1, Hameed 4) Hameed drops Yadav on the off side and takes a quick single, a small but laudable statement of intent. Yadav moves round the wicket and hoops one back to Burns, who drives along the ground to mid-on. England will be encouraged by that delivery because until then the ball had done very little.
4th over: England 4-0 (Burns 0, Hameed 3) So far, so comfortable for England. India have bowled a bit too wide, especially to the right-handed Hameed, and he is leaving everything pitched up outside off stump. He does go after a short ball but mistimes a cut into the ground.
“It is critical that the England batters show application and make India earn their wickets,” says Spencer. “A 50-over collapse, and England might as well write off the next Test. If India are too good, fair play, but make them earn the wickets and put some miles in Indian bowlers.”
This does feel like the kind of game that India will win in the final session. Tomorrow, that is, honkety honk. I expect India to win but will be surprised if they run through England.
3rd over: England 4-0 (Burns 0, Hameed 3) Hameed gets off a pair, working Yadav confidently off the hip for three. It should only have been a couple but he got an extra run when Jadeja’s throw from the deep was fumbled by Thakur.
“Why do all the pundits seem to think that the draw is more likely than an England win?” says James Higgott. “Obviously, an England win is *very* unlikely but if they do bat 126 overs I’d have thought they’d get to the score they need to win. The required rate is less than three an over and the weather is set fair.”
I guess there are two main reasons. India can slow the game down if it looks likethey could lose, and also England will naturally bat more cautiously than they would if this was the first innings and the match was a blank canvas. They could win but I’d say the draw is much more likely.
2nd over: England 0-0 (Burns 0, Hameed 0) Haseeb Hameed is on a pair, facing Jasprit Bumrah. Good luck with that. Bumrah starts with a bit of a range-finder, and Hameed is able to leave most deliveries. Another iamden.
“Rob, the naysayers do seem unfairly pessimistic,” says Kim Thonger. “Surely England have a chance of not only saving the game but winning it? Admittedly I make this optimistic claim from a blood temperature hot tub in searing sunshine with air temperature about 34C and a glass of cava in hand but still, don’t they?”
No. Also, have you seen how empty that glass is?
1st over: England 0-0 (Burns 0, Hameed 0) Rohit and Pujara are off the field with niggles, so the substitute Suryakumar Yadav is at third slip. Umesh Yadav starts with a maiden to Burns, all fairly harmless.
Umesh Yadav has the new ball in his hand. It’s time.
More realistically, England need to bat around 126 overs to draw the game. On a relatively flat pitch, the two new balls will be vital. If England lose no more than one wicket tonight, they have a chance. Some ifs are bigger than others.
WICKET! India 466 all out (Yadav c Moeen b Overton 25)
All over. Yadav clouts Overton to cover and runs off to get changed into his bowling gear. That was a terrificbatting performance from India, who inflicted almost 150 overs of hard yakka on the England bowlers and fielders. The upshot is that England need 368 to win
148th over: India 465-9 (Yadav 25, Siraj 1) Yadav hits his second six of the innings, lifting Woakes handsomely over mid-on. This is all credit in the bank for India - not just runs but also the old mental disintegration. England look very hot and pretty bothered.
“What’s the forecast for tomorrow, Rob?” says Simon McMahon. “Raining wickets seems a good bet.”
I think it’s a steady drizzle of wickets until 5pm, and then a whole lotta doom and gloom.
147th over: India 458-9 (Yadav 19, Siraj 1) Now it’s Yadav’s turn to have some fun. He pulls a short ball from Overton to the midwicket boundary, and a handful of singles lift the lead to 359. This lower-order biffing has surely ended what little chance there was of an England win. A draw shouldn’t be beyond the realms on this pitch.
146th over: India 450-9 (Yadav 13, Siraj 0) That was the last ball of the over. India lead by 351.
WICKET! India 450-9 (Bumrah c Moeen b Woakes 24)
A weary Chris Woakes gets his seventh wicket of the match. Bumrah, who clipped a classy boundary earlier in the over, clothed a pull straight to Moeen Ali at mid-on to end another useful lower-order innings.
145th over: India 446-8 (Yadav 13, Bumrah 20) This will be an extended session, with play finishing at 6.48pm to make up some of yesterday’s lost time. Craig Overton, who has almost been a specialist nightwatchman in this game, bowls the first over after tea. Bumrah takes a single off the last ball to move into the twenties. Before this series Bumrah had a Test batting average of 2.26; in this series he’s averaging 20.75.
The players are back on the field, and India are still batting. Please sir, I want some less.
144th over: India 445-8 (lead by 346; Yadav 13, Bumrah 19) A flighted delivery from Moeen is launched to cow corner by Bumrah, who is again having fun with the bat. On this occasion, England haven’t tried to pick a fight with him.
That’s the end of a fantastic session for India: 116 runs from 26 overs for the loss of Pant and Thakuar. They lead by 346 runs and, though they aren’t completely safe, the box seat looks pretty snug. Are those cushions from Anthropologie?
143rd over: India 440-8 (Yadav 13, Bumrah 14) Chris Woakes replaces Joe Root. His first ball almost leads to a run-out when Bumrah is sent back by Yadav. Hameed’s throw missed the stumps with Bumrah scrambling to make his ground.
Bumrah thumps a boundary past Root at mid-off, and then Root pulls up holding the back of his left leg. Tremendous stuff. He’s not moving freely, but he’s staying at mid-off so it doesn’t seem too serious.
142nd over: India 435-8 (Yadav 13, Bumrah 9) The minds of the England players are already frazzled, so the last thing they need is to be humiliated by Bumrah again. India are batting with abandon, as if anything’s a bonus. They are probably right.
“Afternoon Rob, afternoon everyone,” says Neil Withers. “Just thought I’d let you know that Jimmy is one catch away from a rare double - 100 wickets and 100 catches! Top of the list is Kallis, with 292 wickets and a whopping 200 catches. Then it’s Warne (125 catches) Botham (120), Hooper (115) and Sobers (109). Interestingly*, the only other current player on 100+ wickets with a sniff of joining the list is Stokes with 81 catches.”
141st over: India 431-8 (Yadav 12, Bumrah 6) Bumrah reaches outside off stump to sweep Root to the midwicket boundary. A single takes the score to 429 for eight, and for a brief moment we’re all transported back to 1979. And then Bumrah goes and spoils it all by saying something like ‘One run’.
140th over: India 424-8 (Yadav 10, Bumrah 1) Yadav clouts Moeen over long-on for six, and a handful of singles takes India’s lead up to 325.
“Pant dragging himself off the pitch like he thinks he might have thrown the game,” says Brian Withington. “If so, I wish my optimism matched his pessimism. Game half full?”
I think his despair was more because he was desperate to have a bit of fun. I don’t think it even registered on the Pontingometer.
139th over: India 415-8 (Yadav 2, Bumrah 0) The dismissals of Pant and Thakur have increased India’s changes of winning the game, because the draw is now almost impossible. They have also increased India’s chances of losing the game, though I doubt Virat Kohli is too worried. India lead by 316.
138th over: India 414-8 (Yadav 1, Bumrah 0) The below is a sizeable problem going into the Old Trafford Test. I’m not sure you can play both Anderson and Robinson.
WICKET! India 414-8 (Pant ct and b Moeen 50)
I take it all back: Moeen has come on at the other end. Pant drives him for a single to reach a (mostly) responsible fifty from 105 balls. I’m sure you’ll agree that, by playing so sensibly for two and a half hours, Pant has earned the right to have a bit of fun.
He does... for one ball. Pant smoked the ball straight at Moeen, who took a smart two-handed catch by his right shoulder. Pant is so upset that he can barely leave the field. He worked so hard and was desperate to have an hour of bish-bosh.
137th over: India 412-7 (Pant 49, Yadav 0) The fact Root brought himself on is a reflection of Moeen Ali’s plummeting morale. I have a hunch that at least one and maybe both of Moeen and Jos Buttler will retire from Test cricket in the next month. I’m not sure they need the pain any more.
WICKET! India 412-7 (Thakur c Overton b Root 60)
If you want a job done... Joe Root brings himself on and strikes straight away. Thakur edges a muscular drive to slip, where Overton takes a smart catch. Thakur gets a fine ovation for another rollocking innings - 60 from 72 balls with seven fours and a six.
136th over: India 411-6 (Pant 49, Thakur 60) Never mind two fifties in a Test, Thakur might be sniffing a hundred. He belts Robinson down the ground for another four to move into the sixties, and now India lead by 312.
“England will comfortably see out day five after briefly considering going for the win, and us Indian fans will wonder if things would have been different if Ashwin played,” says Fahd Mashood. “What is the highest fourth-innings total at this ground by the way?”
I think it’s India’s 429 for eight in 1979, when they fell just short of victory. Thing is, England are hopeless at batting for a draw – since this team started to form in the summer of 2014, they have never batted out the final day to draw a Test. That’s a pretty damning statistic, especially when you consider all the great escapes from 2009-13. This pitch is fine, and England bat very deep, but I don’t think they are mentally strong or defensively sound enough to survive 110 overs.
135th over: India 405-6 (Pant 47, Thakur 55) India are on the charge. Thakur drives Anderson through mid-off for four to bring up the 400, the first time India have reached that score since the turn of the decade, and then Pant runs down the track to smash the ball to the cover boundary.
134th over: India 396-6 (Pant 43, Thakur 50) Thakur launches a slower ball from Robinson over long on for six! His irksome batting has had a profound impact on this game, and now he has joined an exclusive club. After Pant inside-edges a boundary, Thakuar pulls a single to reach another bristling half-century: 65 balls, 5x4, 1x6. Thakur is only the ninth lower-order batsman* to score two fifties in the same Test. The list has been dominated in recent times by Indian players - Harbhajan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Wriddhiman Saha and now Shardul Thakur. And because of that, India lead by 297 runs.
* Nos 8-11
133rd over: India 383-6 (Pant 38, Thakur 43) Thakur lifts Anderson lazily, almost nonchalantly, over backward square leg for four. Pant then survives a big LBW appeal after missing a reverse sweep (!) at Anderson (!!). It looked pretty good - very good - but Richard Illingworth wasn’t interested and England have no reviews left. Replays show it was umpire’s call on height, so that’s fair enough.
132nd over: India 378-6 (Pant 38, Thakur 38) Thanks Tim, hello every- FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! England have missed a glorious run-out chance. Pant turned Robinson into the leg side and set off. He was three-quarters of the way down the pitch when Thakur sent him back, but Moeen flung the ball wide of the stumps. He had enough time to wait for Bairstow to arrive and lob the ball into him - or even, as Mark Butcher says on Sky, to do a Jonty Rhodes and demolish the stumps on foot. Sad to say, that bit of fielding completes a three-dimensional shocker for Moeen in this game, starting with his match-turning dismissal on Friday.
131st over: India 375-6 (Pant 37, Thakur 36) Anderson’s break was a short one, so short that he continues his spell. And gets his second-favourite thing, a maiden. That’s drinks, with India making up for a bad hour before lunch with a superb one since. They lead by 276 and the game is now theirs to lose.
“We’ve just had a splendid lunch here in Madrid,” says Kim Thonger, “and a random thought popped into my head as I coyly sipped a digestif. Wouldn’t Pant be a MARVELLOUS bullfighter?” That rather depends on whether the bull is canny enough to have a fourth slip.
Time for me to hand over to Rob Smyth, who will at least make sure that any England humiliation is washed down with some wit and wisdom. Thanks for your company, correspondence and observations on the Buttler’s interior decor, and I’ll be back tomorrow afternoon if this Test goes that far.
130th over: India 375-6 (Pant 37, Thakur 36) England have reached the stage of a long innings where they just want to be off the field, like Tsitsipas against Murray. Woakes took a breather as soon as his spell ended, Pope soon followed, and now Anderson is sitting in front of the dressing-room, having a drink of water. That’s modern players for you, and who can blame them. The more time-honoured role of putting in the hard yards is in safe hands with Robinson, who bowls another maiden. He tries two short balls at Thakur, the second one also a slower ball, and gets him in a bit of a tangle. That is England’s best moment since lunch.
129th over: India 375-6 (Pant 37, Thakur 36) Anderson drops just short enough to allow Thakur to cut for three. Someone needs to inform Thakur that Jimmy doesn’t approve of tail-end runs: these days, he even refuses to make them himself.
128th over: India 372-6 (Pant 37, Thakur 33) Here is Robinson, giving Root what he wanted by bowling a maiden to Pant. He is greeted by the now-traditional blast of “Here’s to you, Ollie Robinson” on the trumpet. Actually, blast is just the wrong word: this trumpeter manages to find the sadness in most tunes. And I mean that as a compliment.
127th over: India 372-6 (Pant 37, Thakur 33) If anyone can find the plug, it’s Anderson, who grudgingly allows each batsman a single. “Gripping stuff today,” says Jeremy Boyce. “I’d love to suggest that Root brings on some legend from the past (Laker, Trueman, Bedser, Underwood...) as England’s top wicket-taker in Tests against India, but actually he’s already on the pitch. JimmyJimmyJimmy is out in front with 118 but not making much impression on 119 today so far.” No, and his recent record, curiously, doesn’t inspire much confidence: in the past three years, he averages 19 in the opposition’s first innings of a Test, 41 in the second (thank you, Statsguru). Time waits for no man.
126th over: India 370-6 (Pant 36, Thakur 32) That man at silly mid-off for Woakes takes a step to his left, towards extra-cover, where Thakur’s last uppish stroke went. So he sends his next one to midwicket, and picks up three more. He’s been so fluent. Pant piles in with a cut for four, turning a decent ball into an expensive one with his fast hands. Woakes, usually so tidy, has 4-0-20-0 since lunch, and the alarm bells are ringing. Nee-naw, nee-naw – Root needs to send for Robinson.
125th over: India 363-6 (Pant 32, Thakur 29) Moeen comes off, which feels right, and here’s Anderson to have a go at Pant. The new, sober, grown-up Pant just nurdles a single off Anderson’s second ball to bring up the fifty partnership off 13.3 overs. It’s been a stand of two halves: watchful before lunch, gleeful since. India lead by 264, and WinViz gives them four times as much chance of a win as England – 63pc to 16, with the draw creeping up to 21.
124th over: India 361-6 (Pant 31, Thakur 28) Woakes, like Overton before him, now has a silly mid-off, desperately seeking a loose drive. And Thakur plays one – but it’s well to that man’s left, off a leading edge, and it lands safely where an orthodox extra-cover might have been. The gods, capricious as ever, were supporting England before lunch, but have now changed sides.
123rd over: India 358-6 (Pant 30, Thakur 26) After all that restraint, Pant finally has a go at Mo, lofting him for four, one bounce over the Toblerone at long-off. Like Thakur, he follows a blast with a nudge for a single. Thakur weighs in with a cut for four and the lead stretches to 259. For England, this isn’t ominous any more: it’s The Omen.
“Can’t think of many more explosive batting partnerships than Pant and Thakur,” Colum Fordham said at lunch, shrewdly. “Possibly Bairstow and Stokes or a fantasy duo of Gayle and Botham, so it’s going to be fascinating to see whether they will rein in their attacking instincts with Moeen on. Loved Moeen’s delivery to dismiss Kohli. Hopefully, it will give him the confidence to carry on bowling that line. What a Test match!”
122nd over: India 348-6 (Pant 25, Thakur 21) The sun is out, the sky is blue and Woakes is bowling: what more could an England crowd ask for? Another wicket, that’s what, to bring in the rabbits. And it doesn’t come, though Woakes does regain control after that costly first over.
121st over: India 346-6 (Pant 24, Thakur 20) England need to find the plug and Moeen does better in this over, conceding two singles and drawing an inside edge from Thakur that dies before it reaches short leg, just as so many edges did earlier in the slips. England will need that trend to continue into the fourth innings.
120th over: India 344-6 (Pant 23, Thakur 19) From the pavilion end it’s Woakes, so his duel with Thakur is on again. This round goes to Thakur, who plays an off-drive for four followed by a push for a single, to prove that he’s not drunk on his own strokeplay. Before that, there was a punch for three from Pant. India have 15 since lunch, and a lead of 245 overall.
Here’s Smylers. “Congratulations to Jos Buttler and his wife on the birth of Margot,” he says. Hear hear, though we’d better give a name-check to Louise, who may have done most of the heavy lifting. “Any idea why the Buttlers have a framed giant ace of diamonds on their wall (as seen reflected in the mirror behind them)? Is Jos a known fan of diamonds? Or aces?” Ha.
119th over: India 336-6 (Pant 20, Thakur 14) Play resumes after lunch, but I don’t think Pant had much to eat, because he’s looking hungry. Facing Moeen, which is surely what he want, he pushes into the on side for two, then rocks back to play a cut that deserves more than a single. England appeal for a run-out as Woakes pulls off a direct hit from cover, but Thakur has run his bat in, and he picks up another one via the ricochet.
118th over: India 329-6 (Pant 16, Thakur 11) There are batsmen who play for lunch, and then there is Shardal Thakur. Even though there’s a silly mid-off waiting for the miscue, he drives Overton straight back for four. Root replies by adding a silly mid-on as well, so Overton has the field he would have had when he was ten. That’s good captaincy, but Thakur survives. This partnership, though it has only added 17, has begun to exude some menace, and England have burned their reviews.
And so to lunch. England have won the session, thanks to the enduring excellence of their 30-something all-rounders, Chris Woakes and Moeen – but India are still bossing the match. It’s been enthralling: Test cricket is giving us yet another top-class boxed set. See you in half an hour for the next instalment.
117th over: India 324-6 (Pant 15, Thakur 7) Pant, who averages 57 against spin and 32 against pace, is itching to tuck into Moeen. he goes down the track twice in this over, but collects only a single, driven out to the cover sweeper. Thakur does play an expansive shot, a classy cover drive, and gets four for it – but then Mo drops shorter and Thakur plays and misses, going for the cut. One more over before lunch.
116th over: India 318-6 (Pant 14, Thakur 2) Pant is not in one-day mode, or even his usual Test mode, but England are treating him as if he is and dishing up the odd slower ball. When Overton tries one, Pant is equal to it, playing the shot that is in danger of becoming his new signature: the nudge to leg. He’s bringing sexless back.
115th over: India 315-6 (Pant 13, Thakur 2) Moeen continues as a caption informs us that he now has 194 Test wickets, one more than Jim Laker. Go Mo! He then bowls a ball that Laker would be proud of, a big off-break to Thakur, and it pops up off the pad to Haseeb Hameed at short leg. The appeal gets a crisp shake of the head from the umpire, but England review, hoping it’s either LBW or caught. No joy – it’s missing the leg stump as well as the inside edge. Buttler might have saved them from that one.
114th over: India 314-6 (Pant 13, Thakur 1) Woakes would love to have a go at Thakur, who marmalised him on Thursday, but he’s due a rest, so Overton returns with a change of ends. His extra bounce elicits two things from Pant: a pull, played straight to square leg; and a nick that drops short of Moeen at third slip. That has happened a lot this morning.
113th over: India 314-6 (Pant 13, Thakur 1) Root’s bowling changes could hardly have gone better this morning, but without Jos Buttler at his side he’s still struggling with the field placings. Thakur, like Pant, is offered a single for a defensive prod (off Moeen), so he helps himself from the buffet.
112th over: India 312-6 (Pant 12, Thakur 0) Woakes continues, still trying to tempt Pant outside off, and that’s another maiden. “The pitch is still a beauty for batting on,” says Mark Butcher, who knows what he’s talking about after growing up at The Oval.
111th over: India 312-6 (Pant 12, Thakur 0) That bowling change was probably aimed at Pant: to test his new-found resolve, Root thought he would open up the cocktail cabinet and bring on Moeen. Pant did give him the charge, but only to play a nudge into the on side – and he got handsomely rewarded for it. Kohli saw that there was a second to be stolen, and Ollie Pope was panicked into hurling the throw in and giving away four overthrows. So Pant has a six to his name, and he still hasn’t played a shot in anger. But Mo has the scalp from the Most Wanted poster, and England are down to the tail.
Wicket!!! KOHLI c Overton b Ali 44 (India 312-6)
The big one! The ball from Moeen turns a touch, but not as sharply as Kohli was expecting, and a classic nick goes safely into the big bucket hands of Craig Overton.
110th over: India 305-5 (Kohli 44, Pant 5) More dots from Woakes and another quick single for Pant, who has clearly gone to a meeting of Agricultural Hitters Anonymous.
“Having strange thoughts about Rahane’s dismissal for a nought,” says Farhan. “He seems to be a better captain than Kohli is. He’s played a decent, very underrated knock at Lord’s. But he’s failed enough times for him to be shown the door. Surely, another failure would mean some time off India’s Test team for him.”
109th over: India 304-5 (Kohli 44, Pant 4) Another watchful stroke from Pant, who has renounced the big shots in favour of singles that bring up milestones: this one, off Overton, gives India 300. Kohli celebrates with a crunching cover-drive for four, struck on the up – his first scoring shot for 40 minutes.
108th over: India 299-5 (Kohli 40, Pant 3) That single was the only run off the over from Woakes, whose spell this morning has been a gem: 4-2-3-2.
Meanwhile Simon Burnton has written up the story of Ravi Shastri’s positive Covid test.
India lead by 200
Pant plays a defensive push, takes a cheap single to mid-off, and lifts India’s lead to 200. England are on top right now, but India are the firmish favourites to win the match on WinViz, by 59pc to 25.
107th over: India 298-5 (Kohli 40, Pant 2) Overton too is rising to the opportunity. He draws an edge from Kohli, which drops just short of Root at first slip. The next ball is the nip-backer, not far from the off bail as Kohli lets it go. Overton has another maiden and England’s back-up seamers are doing the business here. “This is the game,” Warne says, “the next hour.”
106th over: India 298-5 (Kohli 40, Pant 2) Pant, facing Woakes again, keeps it demure, and that’s another maiden. Since Woakes came on, five overs ago, India have made 2 for 2. Flow, meet ebb.
105th over: India 298-5 (Kohli 40, Pant 2) Root would love to keep Robinson on, but he’s bowled 27 overs in this innings while his brother by another mother, Craig Overton, has had only ten. So here is Overton, emulating his bro by finding plenty of bounce from not much pace. He keeps Kohli quiet, and keeps the pressure on, with his first maiden of the innings.
“We miss your witty commentary DK,” says a sign in the crowd. “No offence Warney!” Too shay. Warne ignores it at first, then laughs along.
104th over: India 298-5 (Kohli 40, Pant 2) So, Rishabh, what’s it to be today: master blaster or walking wicket? Woakes gives him a tempter outside off and he takes the bait, but safely, guiding it down third man for two. You wonder if it will cramp his style having the boss out there with him. My guess is not.
Wicket!! Rahane LBW b Woakes 0 (India 296-5)
Got him now! Woakes goes fuller, angles it in, beats the inside edge of an uncertain poke, and it’s goodnight Rahane, who doesn’t bother to review this time. And that’s drinks with India winning the first half-hour and England the second, thanks to the wonder of Woakes. What a series this is – what a sport.
103rd over: India 296-4 (Kohli 40, Rahane 0) Kohli, after engaging top gear just now, goes down into third again and plays out a maiden from Robinson. Even alpha cricketers have to play the situation.
102nd over: India 296-4 (Kohli 40, Rahane 0) A wicket-maiden from Woakes, and it’s the second-best over out of 102 in this innings.
Yes, too high. Alex Wharf, who did so well with the first decision, got this one wrong. But so did Rahane, who would have played a shot if he had known it was the nip-backer.
Wicket? Rahane given LBW b Woakes 0 (India 296-5, maybe)
Another one! No stroke. But this is a bit high....
Wicket! Jadeja LBW b Woakes (India 296-4)
Now Root changes the bowling and it works! Chris Woakes brings his second ball back into the left-handed Jadeja. He reviews, hoping he got some bat on it before pad, but it’s pad first, three reds, hitting the off bail, and that’s goodnight Ravi, still not at home at No 5.
101st over: India 296-3 (Kohli 40, Jadeja 17) Root changes the field at last, moving third slip to leg slip for Robinson to Jadeja, who retorts, cannily, by opening the face and taking a single past second slip. Robinson draws a nick from Kohli, but it drops short of Burns at second slip, and next ball Kohli asserts himself by straight-driving for four, adding plenty of bottom hand, like a finger jabbing his point home. “I always love it,” says Rob Key, “when you see a great player take charge of a situation.”
All the wickets that are refusing to fall here are now tumbling at Chelmsford.
100th over: India 291-3 (Kohli 36, Jadeja 16) After a few twos and threes, Kohli is overdue a four and he gets one in style, with a rasping cover drive off Anderson. In the past five minutes, a determined performance has turned into an ominous one. Coming soon: dominant.
99th over: India 287-3 (Kohli 32, Jadeja 16) Robinson, who has removed Kohli three times, very nearly does so again with a textbook away-swinger that comes bearing bounce as well as movement. Next ball, Kohli retorts with a dab for three, and Jadeja, like a good second fiddle, takes the hint by glancing for four. And that’s the fifty partnership, out of nowhere, off 18 overs. England badly need a wicket.
98th over: India 280-3 (Kohli 29, Jadeja 12) Anderson is bowling 82-83mph, still getting some lift, and he gives Jadeja a bruise on the arm, just above the elbow. Michael Holding reckons he was quicker than usual yesterday, 85-86mph, though it brought him no wickets. In the crowd, the cameras find a girl of about eight holding up a sign. “Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy,” it says, “win me win me win me my first Test match.” If that doesn’t spur the old boy on, I don’t know what will.
97th over: India 280-3 (Kohli 29, Jadeja 12) Robinson doesn’t bowl many bad balls, and often gets away with them as they tend to sail past the batsman’s left hip, but this one is full and Kohli helps himself to two past square leg. It’s puzzling that Root hardly ever has a short leg for him.
96th over: India 278-3 (Kohli 27, Jadeja 12) Kohli takes a single off Anderson, who isn’t happy with the foot holes, so out comes a man in shorts with a bucket and spade. Beach cricket!
“They used to mix cement with soil when repairing footholds,” says Mike Selvey on Twitter. “Do they still do that @Karl_McDermott?” Karl, as you know, is the groundsman at Lord’s, and Selve, once the cricket correspondent of The Guardian, is the president of Middlesex.
Here’s Bob Wilson, our man in Paris. “There are 2 and only 2 guaranteed natural hangover cures,” he declares. “C18th light opera and a hard to call Test Sunday late on in an even series. Happy to say it’s working already.” I’ll have to take your word for it on the opera.
95th over: India 277-3 (Kohli 26, Jadeja 12) Jadeja, still shaky outside off, thick-edges Robinson for two and then plays and misses again, at one that jags away nicely. Nasser Hussain is studying England’s three slips with less than wholehearted approval. “They’re too close together – Overton [at third] has moved closer to Burns [in the doghouse] when that [Burns’s left] is his strong side.”
94th over: India 275-3 (Kohli 26, Jadeja 10) Jimmy Anderson’s first ball zips through outside Kohli’s off stump, to be taken by Jonny Bairstow next to the sponsor’s logo on his chest. The second is on target but tame and full enough to be clipped through midwicket for three. Joe Root has started warily with his fields, giving both bowlers five men saving one, three on the off side, two on the leg. Five men in the ring, tra-la-la-la.
Ravi Jadeja wafts at one outside off before taking a single. He has just collected his reward for being the world’s most effective No.7, which is to become the world’s most flattered No.5.
93rd over: India 271-3 (Kohli 23, Jadeja 9) The first over is bowled by Ollie Robinson, the only England player who had fun yesterday. He makes Kohli play the first ball of the day, landing it on off stump and drawing an edgy poke to square leg. A few balls later, Kohli plays the same shot with far more conviction and takes a single.
An email from my colleague Simon Burnton, who is at the ground. “On the Covid news,” he reports, “England say they have kept entirely separate from the India team and coaches except for their interactions on the field of play.” There’s something to be said for keeping your distance. “So the series should hopefully be played to a conclusion unless there are positive tests among the Indian players.”
And there are rumours of Covid at Edgbaston too. For all today’s championship news, do join Tanya Aldred as she takes off her Test hat and puts on her county one.
Newsflash: Shastri tests positive
India’s coach, Ravi Shastri, has tested positive for Covid. He will go into isolation, Lawrence Booth of the Mail and Wisden reports on Twitter, as will three other members of the backroom staff “as a precaution”. The Indian players have all tested negative after taking two lateral-flow tests. All the best to Shastri for a speedy recovery.
Preamble: crunch time (again)
Morning everyone and welcome to the fourth day of the Oval Test, which is now looking even more crucial than the third. India are already 171 runs ahead, with seven wickets left. If Virat Kohli and one or two others go big, they can bat England out of the series. But if the bowlers strike back, we could be in for the sort of finish that demands the presence of Ben Stokes and Jack Leach.
England did have a spell yesterday when they were right on top: the trouble was, it only lasted for one over. Ollie Robinson’s double breakthrough with the new ball was the sole burst of sunshine on a long day’s journey into bad light. Rohit Sharma was just too good, finally making his first overseas Test hundred at a time when his team really needed it. Cometh the hour, cometh the ton.
Play starts at 11am local time, light permitting, so do join us then to see whether Kohli’s will can prevail over Anderson and Robinson’s skill.