England had the stuffing knocked out of them on the fourth afternoon of the fourth LV= Insurance Test, with a century stand between Rishabh Pant and Shardul Thakur leaving India sitting on a heavy lead of 346. England fought their way back into contention in the fourth LV= Insurance Test, clipping India’s wings with three wickets from Chris Woakes and Moeen Ali on the fourth morning.
When Moeen Ali had Virat Kohli caught behind to leave India 312 for six in the morning session, the game was on a knife-edge with the tourists 213 ahead. Resuming the second session at 329/6, Pant and Thakur added 46 more runs inside one hour and this put the English bowlers on the back foot, with the visitors extending their lead to more than 250. Shardul carried on with his form and he brought up his second fifty of the match in the 134th over.
A couple more quick wickets might even have left England as slight favorites, but instead, they fell flat as Pant (50) and Thakur (60) piled on exactly 100 in 155 morale-sapping balls. At tea the scoreboard had raced along to 445 for eight, meaning a mammoth fourth-innings chase awaited. In the hottest conditions of the week, England buckled as their opponents thrived. James Anderson and Ollie Robinson added more and more to their wearying workloads but had the look of men who had been asked to give too much.
In the end, it was spin that did the trick, Joe Root finding Thakur’s edge with his part-timers before Pant was caught and bowled by Moeen Ali. Even then they had not broken the back of the India rearguard, with Umesh Yadav and Jasprit Bumrah playing freely as they topped the total up by another 31 before the break. The hosts lost control of the game on Saturday, laboring away with minimal success as India racked up 270 for three, but the pendulum swung again as they reached lunch on 329 for six.
That left them with a healthy lead of 230, but England will still hold a belief if they can bring things to a close without significant damage in the afternoon session. Woakes had to wait for his turn but had an immediate impact, dismissing Ravindra Jadeja and Ajinkya Rahane lbw in his first two overs to halt the tourists’ momentum. Moeen then got the big scalp, with away captain Virat Kohli nicking to slip while well set on 44.
India resumed 171 ahead and defied England’s plans for 45 minutes, adding 26 in the process. Kohli gave a few ominous hints of his intent, creaming James Anderson through extra cover with a flourish then crunching Ollie Robinson hard down the ground. On both occasions he gave a little skip immediately after contact, strutting away as the ball raced to the ropes. There had been a couple of plays and misses too but it was not until Woakes replaced Anderson at the Pavilion End that events took a turn.
His second ball of the day pitched in line and straightened up off the seam, slamming into Jadeja’s front pad and persuading umpire Alex Wharf to raise the finger. Jadeja reviewed but was bang to rights. The out-of-form Rahane was next up and represented easy pickings to Woakes. He successfully overturned an lbw decision off his third ball but was gone for a duck in the all-rounder’s next visit. This time Rahane played round a full, straight ball destined for leg stump.
Kohli’s role was now even bigger than ever but he scored just five runs from his last 24 deliveries before Moeen bested him for the sixth time in Tests. Propping forward at a flighted off-break that held its line, he nicked a low chance to Craig Overton who snapped it up at slip. Rishabh Pant and Shardul Thakur added another 16 before the interval, with England unable to grab one more breakthrough.