England arrived on the final morning of the fourth LV= Insurance Test dreaming of a famous chase against India but left with their tail between their legs, outclassed in a 157-run defeat at the Kia Oval.
The home side needed 291 in three sessions to complete a record pursuit of 368 but never looked like making a serious dent in that challenge as India rinsed them for 210 to take a 2-1 lead with a game to play.
India were in control from the start but moved in for the kill in the afternoon session, peaking with a climactic stint that saw Jasprit Bumrah and Ravindra Jadeja share four wickets for just six runs.
India win the fourth Test and take a 2-1 lead in the series.
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) September 6, 2021
Bumrah was fast, full and fizzed it through the air, while Jadeja enjoyed some lavish turn out of the rough to justify the controversial non-selection of premier spinner Ravichandran Ashwin.
All the talk on the fourth evening had been of a flat pitch that was there for the taking, but as Haseeb Hameed, Ollie Pope, Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali formed an orderly queue to the pavilion, there was a reminder that such ideas are only ever easy in theory.
Hameed’s 63 was England’s top score but most of his good work was done on Sunday evening, and his contribution of 20 runs from 108 balls on the day set a timid tone.
England will now head north to Old Trafford knowing a drawn tour is the best they can hope for and with a potential headache over the fitness of strike bowlers James Anderson and Ollie Robinson, who have been worked into the ground over the past month and may not make the finish line.
Shortly before 10am Surrey announced that the ground was sold out, with ticket-holders pouring through the gates in anticipation of a nail-biting finale. Initially, at least, they had to settle for a slow burn as England made just 54 for the loss of two wickets before lunch.
While Hameed retreated into his shell, Rory Burns added 19 at better than a run-a-ball to turn the overnight partnership of 77 into England’s first century stand of the match. The applause had barely subsided when he nicked Shardul Thakur behind for 50.
Hameed should have followed for 55, trying to hack his way into a higher gear with an ugly swipe at Jadeja only for Mohammed Siraj to fumble a dolly.
Dawid Malan’s arrival only upped the anxiety levels, with the left-hander clearly spooked by Jadeja’s turn. In the end he was run out for a shaky five, hurried through by Hameed, slow out of the blocks and beaten to the punch by Virat Kohli’s throw.
THIS. IS. IT! 👏 👏
Take a bow, #TeamIndia! 🙌 🙌
What a fantastic come-from-behind victory this is at The Oval! 👌 👌
We head to Manchester with a 2-1 lead! 👍 👍 #ENGvIND
— BCCI (@BCCI) September 6, 2021
England reached lunch at 131 for two, leaving a lofty 237 to get after their pedestrian start. Joe Root offered a welcome signal of intent by reverse-sweeping the first ball of the afternoon for four, the first since Burns’ exit, but things were about to take a sharp and emphatic turn for the worse.
Jadeja, easing through his best spell of the summer, finally ended Hameed’s resistance with one that pitched in the footmarks and ripped across the face of the bat. The ball collided with the top of off stump as Hameed groped at fresh air.
Bumrah seized the moment at the other end, causing mayhem as he wiped out Pope and Bairstow in the space of five balls. Pope had top-scored in the first innings with 81 but was a non-factor here, allowing one to zip between bat and pad as he was castled for two. Bairstow fared even worse with a four-ball duck, Bumrah smashing the base of his stumps with a devilish inswinging yorker.
Moeen was spared the same fate but avoiding Bumrah’s fire came at a price: falling bat-pad to Jadeja without score.
Root and Chris Woakes briefly stopped the bleeding to buy their side some breathing space but neither was able to reach tea. Kohli delayed taking the new ball and got his rewards in the 81st over, when Root stabbed a knee-high trundler into his own stumps for 36. England had run out of road.
Woakes pinged Umesh Yadav’s last ball of the afternoon to short-midwicket to make it 62 for six in the session, leaving a gentle mopping up job in the evening. It proved a painful period for the tailenders as Kohli unwrapped a fresh, hard Dukes, Robinson wearing a bounder on the shoulder before Craig Overton was cleaned up by Yadav via a painful blow to the elbow.
Anderson was last man down, caught behind as Yadav snuck better figures than the superior Bumrah, putting India into an unassailable lead. The contest resumes in four days, with England hoping the pendulum swings their way one last time in a reliably entertaining summer.