Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed give England hope in record-breaking chase

England were pondering the possibility of a record-breaking chase after India’s defiant lower order left them hunting 368 to win a fourth LV= Insurance Test that seemed destined to go all the way.

Joe Root’s side need to conjure their biggest-ever fourth innings success to claim victory on day five at the Kia Oval but, after watching the tourists pile up 466 all out on an increasingly docile pitch, that no longer looks as outlandish as it should.

Openers Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed gave them the perfect base to build from, sharing a chanceless stand of 77 before stumps to leave another 291 to get with all 10 wickets in hand.

All results remain entirely feasible but by far the most remarkable would be an England side somehow finding a way to score six more than than their previous record pursuit – Ben Stokes’ ‘miracle of Headingley’ in the 2019 Ashes.

Rory Burns stands firm
England are still in the hunt for victory in the fourth Test (Adam Davy/PA)

England would have been looking at a much more manageable total were it not for a defiant seventh-wicket stand of 100 between Rishabh Pant (50) and Shardul Thakur (60), followed by further damage from the tail.

By the time they finally wrapped things up they had spent more than 148 overs and 11 hours labouring in the field with their attack all but spent.

Against that backdrop, the ability of Burns (31 not out) and Hameed (43no) to knuckle down for another 32 overs was all the more noteworthy.

India had put plenty of miles in English legs on Saturday, racking up 270 for three, but found some of that good work unpicked as the home side secured three wickets for 59 runs in the morning session.

Virat Kohli spent the first 45 minutes defying the bowlers, puffing his chest out and strutting in satisfaction after a couple of particularly sweet blows, but the arrival of Chris Woakes changed the mood. He picked up Ravindra Jadeja then Ajinkya Rahane with two lbws in the space of nine balls, targeting the stumps and finding just enough movement to beat the bat.

Jasprit Bumrah looks dejected
India’s bowlers were frustrated by Burns and Haseeb Hameed (Adam Davy/PA)

Kohli’s importance had just shot through the roof but England handled him excellently, tying him down to five runs in his last 24 balls and leaving Moeen Ali to snag the outside edge with a delivery that drifted up but held its line. The wicket was Moeen’s 194th in Tests, taking him above the great Jim Laker and behind only Graeme Swann and Derek Underwood among English spinners.

At 312 for five the lead was a vulnerable 213 and another wicket before lunch might have proved decisive. However, Pant and Thakur had designs of their own.

Pant, whose fecklessness with the bat has drawn plenty of criticism, showed admirable restraint as he did important work for his team but Thakur played with freedom. Fresh from his 31-ball half-century in the first innings, he once again vexed England with some unlikely strokes.

With James Anderson and Ollie Robinson looking visibly fatigued by their series-long burden, England could not dry up the rate but should have accepted a gift when it came their way. Instead Moeen rushed a straightforward run-out chance after Pant was sent back on 37, with plenty of time at his disposal. There was still time for Hameed to clear up the mess but he fumbled too. Heads in hands all round.

The spin of Root and Moeen eventually brought about the demise of both men in quick succession, but England were aghast to see Umesh Yadav and Jasprit Bumrah thrash another 49.

Moeen Ali celebrates dismissing Virat Kohli
Moeen Ali dismissed Virat Kohli (Adam Davy/PA)

Kohli was already poring over a box of balls before the final wicket fell, a reminder to everyone of the next battle. Burns and Hameed knew they had a debt to repay after lasting just four overs between them on Friday and made a promising start.

Neither Bumrah nor Yadav were accurate enough, hanging the hard Dukes outside off stump and causing little concern. Kohli had seen enough after seven overs, but his early call for Jadeja’s spin did little to unsettle the batsmen.

A Yadav no-ball allowed Burns to whip away a first boundary in the 11th over and the loose offerings started to slip through more frequently. Burns dragged a Jadeja long-hop to midwicket, Hameed pumped Bumrah through point and soon there was a ripple of applause for a stress-free partnership of 50.

Hameed was growing nicely into his knock, milking Mohammed Siraj for cheap runs late in the day before India wasted a referral on him in the penultimate over. Burns had a heart-in-mouth moment when he left his crease three balls from the close and saw a rapid throw come in from short-leg.

But instead of a late wicket the shy skipped away for two overthrows, allowing England to walk away with spirits soaring.