Joe Root’s skilful defiance helped England at least take the fourth Test into a final day after Virat Kohli and Jayant Yadav’s record-breaking exploits put India on track for series victory at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.
Alastair Cook’s seven-man attack proved powerless as Kohli surged to his third double-century of the year, and his career, and onto a personal-best 235. The team total of 631 was a record for this ground, and a stand of 241 with Jayant (104) was India’s highest for the eighth wicket.
The limit of England’s ambition, setting out again 231 runs from making their hosts bat again, appeared to be to keep them at bay for more than four sessions to avoid an innings defeat and just maybe keep the series deficit at 2-0 with one to play. But those hopes were beginning to look washed up too as three wickets fell in under 14 overs.
Root (77) decided the only option was to change the tempo against spinners Ravindra Jadeja and Ravi Ashwin on a worn pitch, and although he went lbw to Jayant at the start of the last hour England’s reward was a stumps total of 182 for six. It was to Root’s great credit that he achieved and partially sustained his objective, passing his half-century with a reverse-sweep for his seventh four from 75 balls. He also found a lasting ally as he and Jonny Bairstow (50 not out) put on 92.
Root’s fellow Yorkshireman survived on 14 when he gloved an attempted reverse-sweep off Ashwin to slip, where Kohli could not hold on diving to his left. But Bairstow then stayed the course in an 89-ball innings, even after his fourth-wicket partner had paid for a rare misjudgment of length when he was hit deep in the crease by Jayant.
It is a match the tourists are still highly likely to lose, all the more so after Ben Stokes was unluckily caught off an edge onto his boot from a reverse-sweep at Ashwin and then nightwatchman Jake Ball edged behind off Ashwin in the final over. But the contributions from Root and Bairstow were still a vast improvement on the meek performance before tea. First, they had lost debutant first-innings centurion Keaton Jennings for a golden duck, lbw to Bhuvneshwar Kumar from round the wicket.
Then Cook went too, to an action-replay lbw to Jadeja for the third time in the series, and Moeen Ali was caught at leg-slip off the slow left-armer.
Jayant had earlier completed his maiden Test hundred and Kohli’s 200 arrived in exactly seven-and-a-half hours, containing 23 fours from 302 balls.
It was a masterclass, lapped up by an adoring crowd and left paceman James Anderson lamenting England’s bowling display. “It was a tough day for us,” he said. “It was probably our worst morning on the whole tour, from a bowling point of view, the control we produced this morning. They played really well, Kohli obviously played fantastically well and supported well by Yadav.”
Anderson, however, insisted England hadn’t given up hope. “We’ve got to keep believing,” he said. “We’re not going to come out of this game with a draw – we don’t want a draw – [we] want to try to win so we’re going to have to bat extremely well [on Monday].”