England suffer difficult morning in pursuit of record total
England’s hopes of a record-breaking chase on the final day of the fourth LV= Insurance Test suffered a setback in the morning session as India took two wickets and kept the run rate firmly in check.
Pursuing 368 at the Kia Oval, a bigger fourth-innings target than any England side has ever achieved, they were 131 for two at lunch having added just 54. With 237 still to get in two sessions, the task has already got even steeper.
India kept their discipline as they made a promising start to their own hunt for 10 wickets, dismissing Rory Burns for 50 and running out Dawid Malan for just five.
Haseeb Hameed was holding firm on 62 not out after putting on a century opening stand with Burns but was badly dropped on 55 by Mohammed Siraj. In the end, the hosts may well find themselves reliant on the world’s number one batsman, Joe Root, who picked up eight runs after his late arrival on the scene.
A sold-out crowd was bristling with anticipation as England began on their overnight score of 77 for nought but the initial skirmishes were becalmed. India’s bowlers attacked the stumps with accuracy and Hameed took responsibility for keeping them out.
He was taking most of the strike but it was the lesser spotted Burns who found a brighter tempo, steering Umesh Yadav to the third man boundary early on and flicking a couple of fours off his pads.
Burns brought up his personal fifty and the team hundred with a nudge for two but was gone to the very next delivery, Shardul Thakur straightening one from round the wicket and taking the outside edge.
Hameed pressed on to his own half-century but almost followed suit by giving it away soon after. A rush of blood persuaded him to briefly abandon his previous carefulness and he aimed an ugly hack at Jadeja. Mohammed Siraj had the simplest of catches at mid-on but made a fearful mess of it.
Malan’s arrival only cranked up the anxiety levels, with Jadeja causing him problems out of the rough including one close lbw appeal as he tried to kick the ball away with no stroke. Hameed was bundled to the floor at the non-striker’s end after a reckless call from Malan left Jadeja rushing to field off his own bowling, foreshadowing the trouble ahead.
Perhaps mindful that things were becoming too pedestrian, Hameed called his partner through for another brisk single but Malan was slow out of the blocks. Virat Kohli swooped in and hurled the ball to Rishabh Pant, who flicked the bails as Malan made a doomed dive.
Siraj tried to make amends for his earlier error with a couple of tasty nip-backers to welcome Root, but he and Hameed reached the break intact.
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