Rishabh Pant and Shardul Thakur knock stuffing out of England on fourth day
England were left needing a record fourth-innings chase of 368 to win the fourth LV= Insurance Test after having the stuffing knocked out of them by a century stand between Rishabh Pant and Shardul Thakur.
When Moeen Ali had Virat Kohli caught behind to leave India 312 for six on the fourth morning session, the game was on a knife edge with the tourists 213 ahead. But Pant (50) and Thakur (60) piled on exactly 100 runs in 155 morale-sapping balls.
Further late-order hitting from Umesh Yadav and Jasprit Bumrah lifted the tourists to 466 all out, leaving England needing six more than they managed when Ben Stokes led them to their unforgettable Ashes triumph at Headingley in 2019.
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.
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.
England had looked full of fight in the first session, taking three for 59 to unpick much of India’s good work on day three.
They had resumed on 270 for three, 171 ahead and with plenty of batting to come. Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja shut down the opening blasts from Anderson and Robinson, picking up 26 along the way.
Kohli was visibly strutting at the crease every time he nailed a stroke, skipping away after creaming a drive through extra-cover and puffing out his chest when he crunched one back down the ground.
It took the arrival of Chris Woakes to change the tenor, with the all-rounder claiming two wickets in as many overs before conceding his first run. His second ball snuck through Jadeja’s defences, slamming the front pad bang in front, and the off-form Ajinkya Rahane was close behind.
Having already overturned one lbw decision off his third ball he departed to his eighth, playing all around a full ball destined for leg stump.
Kohli slowed down at the other end, with five runs from his last 24 deliveries, and when Moeen had him caught at slip with a flighted delivery that went straight on it seemed a big moment.
Instead, it merely brought together Pant and Thakur and set in motion a truly dispiriting partnership. Pant, who has attracted criticism for his recklessness with the bat in this series, knuckled down to play a responsible innings, allowing Thakur to be the stroke-maker.
Fresh from a record 31-ball fifty in the first innings, he swung away with freedom and repeatedly confounded Root’s field settings. Anderson and Robinson creaked with fatigue as they shouldered an unfair burden.
The numbers romped by until both men reached 50 and only then did they give it away – Thakur nicking Root and Pant bashing a fast return catch for Moeen.
Even then there was further annoyance to come as Yadav (25) clobbered Robinson and Woakes for six and Bumrah (24) added to the frustration. Woakes and Overton finally ended things shortly after tea, handing over an unenviable task to their batsmen.