(Cricket news) Day 4 of the Oval Test started with the game in balance and it ended the same way. India started the day at 270 for 3 with a lead of 171 runs and Ravindra Jadeja and Virat Kohli on the crease.
Jadeja looked good with the willow but got caught plum by an out-swinger from Chris Woakes. The Indian captain was joined in the middle by his deputy but not for long. Ajinkya Rahane's poor run of form got worse. Rahane was trapped in front by Chris Woakes but was saved by the Oval bounce after a review. He later played completely down the wrong line to another Woakes delivery and this time didn't even bother reviewing. Rishabh Pant joined his captain in the middle and this time didn't take any risk. Pant didn't repeat his mistake of stepping out against the quicks this time. Virat Kohli fell short of a half century after he nicked Moeen Ali's straight ball to first slip.
Pant started a great partnership with Shardul Thakur as the pair put together 100 runs. Shardul playing his shots allowed Pant to take it slow as he got to his 50 in 106 balls. Shardul on the other hand played some exquisite drives along with his usual big shots. He got to his 2nd fifty of the game before getting out on 60 to Joe Root. Pant got out straight after his half century to Moeen Ali. Jasprit Bumrah and Umesh Yadav scored some valuable runs as India set England a target of 368.
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England had to play out 32 overs and they couldn't have done it better. Both Haseeb Hameed and Rory Burns looked more than comfortable. A lot of it had to do with the pitch that had no help for the bowlers. Both Umesh Yadav and Jasprit Bumrah couldn't get any movement whatsoever. Ravindra Jadeja was brought into the attack after just 8 overs. Jadeja was unlike himself as he failed to hold his line and hit the rough footmarks consistently. Jadeja bowled 13 overs on the trot from one end and is expected to do the same on day 5. Mohammed Siraj bowled well considering the flatness of the wicket and almost got Hameed LBW just before stumps. The wicket was so flat that Shardul Thakur didn't even get a chance to bowl.
The Test match is very evenly poised with all 4 results possible. If there is a cloud cover then there will be some help for the seamers early on day 5. India will need Jadeja to bowl for the entire day with the accuracy that he is known for. A couple of quick wickets in the first session might swing things into India's favour. For India to win the match England have to play aggressively. If England play for survival then it will be very difficult for India to get 10 wickets given the nature of the pitch.
Player of the day: Shardul Thakur
Shardul Thakur may have been selected as a bowling all rounder but things have changed. The seamer's ability with the willow has grown massively. After an explosive fifty in the first innings Shardul had a terrible time with the ball. He returned to action as a batsman with a well made 60. He played some powerful slogs in the first innings but in the 2nd innings he added a touch of class with some straight drives and back foot punches to go with his Viv Richards' like cover drives. Shardul may have sealed his place in the side for the 5th Test but has to bowl a lot better than he did in England's 1st innings.