Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed give England hope against India at The Oval

Opening pair survive evening session after tourists set record-breaking target in fourth Test

Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed might be some way short of the celebrity of Ben Stokes.

But England's new opening partnership have given their team reason to believe they can reprise the heroics of their absent all-rounder from Headingley two summers ago, at the end of another titanic Test match.

The home side will be required to make the highest ever successful run-chase in their Test history if they are to take an unlikely win from India, and a 2-1 lead in the series.

They will start the final day at The Oval on 77 for no loss, thanks to the vigilance of Burns and Hameed in the final session of Day 4, and needing 368 to win. That is nine more than they needed in the Stokes-inspired Ashes epic of 2019.

Sure, it is a long shot. But the pitch is eminently playable, seam bowlers have been having to toil and Ravichandran Ashwin, India's 413-wicket offspinner, has rarely been more conspicuous by his absence. The hosts will enter day five full of hope.

If evidence were required as to quite how benign conditions are for batting, India’s second innings provided it. Six of their batsmen exceeded 43, with three making half-centuries, and Rohit Sharma top scoring with 127.

And yet, despite the ease of scoring, Virat Kohli’s wait for an international century continues to go on.

India’s captain had seemed a cert to end his 21-month spell without a ton. So comfortable was he, he had even started getting bolshy, avidly celebrating when an errant throw by England brought his batting partner Rishabh Pant four overthrows.

No sooner had he done that, though, Kohli was dismissed, edging Moeen Ali’s off-spin to Craig Overton at slip. He looked livid, as he traipsed off with just 44 to his name.

It was the 10th time he has fallen to Moeen in international cricket. No other bowler has got him more time, while it also edged Moeen past Jim Laker in the wicket charts for England spinners. Only Derek Underwood and Graeme Swann have taken more.

Kohli’s mood appeared to improve as his side set about building an imposing target for England to chase, but he must have felt as though his colleagues were scoring runs meant for him.

Both India’s No 7 and their No 8 posted fifties. For Pant, it provided relief after a lean spell on tour. For Shardul Thakur, it was a second in the match, and came amid a similarly spectacular array of shot-making as he essayed in his record-breaking effort in the first innings.

Even Umesh Yadav and Jasprit Bumrah – neither of whom is a celebrated batter – managed 25 and 24 respectively, as India amassed 466 to set England a target of 368 to win.

England’s bowlers looked worn out by the end of it. Given there is just a three-day break between the end of this game and the start of the next, whether James Anderson and Ollie Robinson, who bowled 33 overs and 32 overs each in the innings, will be fit to start remains to be seen.

Updated: September 5th 2021, 6:10 PM
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