India ends fourth day on 167 for 3 with a lead of 128, after conceding a record 198-run stand for the last wicket
After the third day at Trent Bridge, there was a smidgen of hope that this match could have a result. India had a handy lead of 105, England just one first-innings wicket left. The expectation was that India’s batsmen would move the game on, setting up the possibility of a declaration late in the day. Instead, England’s last-wicket pair of Joe Root and James Anderson added a world-record 198, giving their side a lead of 39.
Anderson was eventually dismissed for 81, the highest score by an England No.11 – surpassing John Snow – while Root remained unconquered on 154. In the 49 overs left in the day, India reeled off 167 for 3 for an overall lead of 128 runs. Again, there was next to no assistance for bowlers from a docile pitch, with each Indian batsman guilty of losing concentration.
Christmas had certainly come early for Root and Anderson, as an Indian attack that had achieved success with balls that were pitched up on day three, mystifyingly resorted to a barrage of short-pitched deliveries, especially against the No. 11. Anderson had been dismissed repeatedly in Australia by precisely such a tactic, and even Sri Lanka’s pacers had targetted him with the bouncer in the recent series. But on this pitch, a well-set Anderson played most such balls with aplomb. More than an hour into the session, India still had no Plan B, and it paid the price.
Root, who had started the day on 78, eased to his century – his second of the season, and fourth overall – with two magnificent drives off Mohammed Shami, but most of the morning entertainment centred around Anderson, who hadn’t even made a first-class 50. The century partnership, off just 138 balls, marked the first time in the game’s history that both teams’ last-wicket stands had exceeded 100, and it was almost fitting that Anderson – jokingly called the Burnley Lara – got to his half-century with a pull for four off a tiring Shami.
It needed some generosity for him to get there. Anderson was on 45, and England still 54 in arrears when Anderson played a Shami delivery in the direction of gully. M Vijay was late to react and the chance was gone. Root had slowed to a crawl by then, but Anderson continued to launch himself at anything in his hitting area and the morning session was extended as India continued to chase leather.
A year ago, England had given up 163, a world record, to Australia’s last-wicket pair of Phil Hughes and Ashton Agar. Root and Anderson went past that at a canter, and carried on after lunch. Mahendra Singh Dhoni tried all his bowlers, but with no turn for Ravindra Jadeja and no movement for Stuart Binny, it was a hard ask to expect the three frontline seamers to back up their efforts of the third day.
India eventually started pitching the ball up more often, and it was just such a delivery that Anderson nicked to the slip cordon. By then, England’s final three wickets had added 294, obliterating any hopes of a second Indian victory at this venue.
Two wickets in two balls late in the day at least roused those left in the crowd. Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara had looked completely untroubled while adding 91, but were both guilty of losing focus with the end of play in sight.
Vijay had followed up his first-innings 146 with another measured knock. Missed before he had scored – Matt Prior failed to get gloves to an edge off Anderson’s bowling – he again played some pleasing drives through cover and cuts behind point. But confronted by Moeen Ali, who he had earlier clouted for six over long-on, Vijay decided on the charge and could only manage a thin edge behind. For Ali, it was a second wicket, after Shikhar Dhawan, who had looked a little more assured on his way to 29, had chipped a low full toss straight back to him.
A ball after Vijay’s exit, Pujara, who had shown typical control and solidity on his way to 55, slapped a Liam Plunkett delivery straight to backward point. Ben Stokes fumbled it, but as the ball ricocheted off his chest, he managed to hold it. It left Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane a nervy passage of play to negotiate, but on a surface showing few signs of fourth-day peril, they were more than equal to the task.