Hameed holds firm as England look to Root in India thriller

London (AFP) –


Haseeb Hameed defied India as England looked to captain fantastic Joe Root to lead them to a dramatic victory in the fourth Test at the Oval on Monday.

England were 131-2 at lunch on the final day, needing a further 237 runs to reach a victory target of 368, with an absorbing five-match series on a knife-edge at 1-1.

Haseeb Hameed was 62 not out, having been reprieved on 55 when Mohammed Siraj dropped a simple catch in the London sunshine.

Root, bidding to become just the second England batsman to score hundreds in four successive Tests, was unbeaten on eight.

England lost two wickets in the session after resuming on 77-0, Rory Burns falling for 50 on his Surrey home ground before Dawid Malan was needlessly run out.

The most England have made to win in the fourth innings of a Test is 362-9, requiring 359, against Australia at Headingley in 2019.

But Ben Stokes, whose unbeaten century took England to that thrilling one-wicket win two years ago, is not playing in this series while the all-rounder takes a mental health break from all cricket.

And no side have made more to win in the fourth innings of a Test at the Oval than England's 263-9 against Australia way back in 1902.

Play, in front of a capacity crowd, resumed with Burns 31 not out and Hameed 43 not out on a pitch that was still a generally good one on which to bat.

The pair had denied India an early breakthrough late Sunday after the tourists had piled up 466 in their second innings.

Rishabh Pant and Shardul Thakur had shared a partnership of exactly 100 after Rohit Sharma had built the foundation for a big total with 127, the opener's first Test century outside of India.

One of the many intriguing sub-plots was whether England would be able to tire India's quicks in the same way the tourists' batsmen had done to the hosts' pace attack during a second innings that lasted for more than 11 energy-sapping hours.

India had again omitted off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, a bowler with 413 Test wickets to his name but yet to feature this series, with the pressure now on left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja to perform on a wearing Oval pitch taking turn.

- Thakur strikes -

Pacemen Umesh Yadav and Jasprit Bumrah opened the attack on Monday, with the pair both bowling a significantly fuller length and straighter line than they had in the 32 overs that England had batted on Sunday.

However, it was all-rounder Thakur -- who already has two fifties with the bat in the match -- who made the breakthrough.

With just his fourth ball of the innings, and one delivery after Burns had completed a fifty to take England to 100, Thakur's excellent leg-cutter to the left-hander took the outside edge and was caught by wicketkeeper Pant.

Opening strike: India's Shardul Thakur (R) celebrates with team-mates after dismissing England's Rory Burns in the fourth Test at the Oval
Opening strike: India's Shardul Thakur (R) celebrates with team-mates after dismissing England's Rory Burns in the fourth Test at the Oval Glyn KIRK AFP

Hameed completed a 123-ball fifty -- his fourth in five Tests -- before, seemingly losing concentration, he mistimed a needless slog-sweep off Jadeja only for Siraj to drop a routine catch at mid-on.

But Malan, fortunate not to be lbw playing no shot to Jadeja on a tight "umpire's call" review decision, fell for five when he was beaten by substitute Mayank Agarwal's throw from cover to Pant.