Host England lived to fight another day as openers Haseeb Hameed (batting 43 off 85 balls) and Rory Burns (batting 31 off 109 balls) saw off the early threat from Indian bowlers to end Day 4 at 77 without loss while chasing 368 that India had set for them to win.
England still trail by 290 runs but their sight will not be on the target, which looks far off at the moment. It will be on the remaining 90 overs that they will have to bat out if they have to ensure India don’t run away with a 2-1 lead in the series.
There is not much in the wicket for the Indian bowlers. However, the one bowler that India will look forward to on the last day will be left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja, who has already shown to be getting some purchase from the wicket at The Oval that has developed rough outside the left-handed Burns’s off-stump. England have as many as four left-handers in their line-up and their battle against Jadeja will be interesting.
For most part of the 32 overs that the England openers faced on Sunday, they looked quite at ease as the pitch had nothing. Former England skipper Nasser Hussain had said during tea that the pitch will remain excellent for batting.
India, earlier, had made the most of batting conditions as they clobbered England bowlers on their way to posting 466 in their second innings.
The visitors on Friday and Saturday had got off to a strong start through openers K.L. Rahul, Rohit Sharma, who completed his maiden Test century overseas on Friday, and Cheteshwar Pujara, who hit a half-century.
They looked to build on it when skipper Virat Kohli and Jadeja resumed batting on the fourth day on Sunday. However, three quick wickets saw India get reduced to 312/6 with a lead of just 213. At lunch, it had moved to 230.
Jadeja, an out-of-form Ajinkya Rahane and Kohli had fallen one after the other.
Post-lunch, however, Shardul Thakur (60 off 72 balls) and Rishabh Pant (50 off 106 balls) began dominating proceedings and hammered the England bowlers. The ball had become softer and afforded no help to the bowling side.
To their credit, both Thakur and Pant saw off the early threat and did not change gears till they were completely settled. As they waited, loose deliveries began coming their way and they started exploiting them.
While Thakur was the more aggressive of the two hitting seven boundaries and one six, Pant was circumspect following his failures in the series as he hit just four boundaries.
The two added exactly 100 for the seventh wicket in 25.6 overs. By the time they were separated, the lead had swelled to 313 and the score moved beyond 400. Both fell one after the other. Some late-order power-hitting by Umesh Yadav (25 off 23 balls) and Jasprit Bumrah (24 off 38 balls) saw India go past 450, with a lead in excess of 350.
Brief scores (Stumps, Day 4):
India 191 all out and 466 all out in 148.2 overs (Rohit Sharma 127, Cheteshwar Pujara 61, Shardul Thakur 60, Rishabh Pant 50, K.L. Rahul 46, Virat Kohli 44, Ollie Robinson 2/105, Chris Woakes 3/83, Moeen Ali 2/118) vs England 290 and 77/0 in 32 overs.