In the 141 years Test cricket has been played in England, only twice has a team managed to chase down a target greater than 350 to win. On Monday at the Oval, Joe Root’s team will be looking to become the third side to pull off the feat as they seek a 2-1 series lead over India.
England go into the final day at 77/0, chasing 368 to win. If they get there it will be England's highest successful Test chase ever.
They are optimistic they can get the job done. After all, they have a history of making history. Just two years ago they set their current benchmark when they chased down 362 in an unforgettable Ashes Test at Headingley - you have to go back to 1948 when Australia managed 404/3 for a greater chase on UK soil.
“This team has done some special things over the last few years in all different formats,” Woakes, England’s standout performer so far in this match, said. “These are the times you want to be part of. We're trying to do something special. It's a great place to be.
"There's a lot of hard work still to be done but you can draw on those experiences. You can look back on what we've done in the past and what we're capable of as a team. A lot of the time it's just about believing you've got the ability to do that and then going out and executing it.
"Everyone will be in agreement with the fact that we can go on and get the runs; there'll be no doubt about that."
England’s bowlers were made to work hard through India’s second innings, with the tourists piling on 466 runs across 148.2 overs. James Anderson (1/79), Ollie Robinson (2/105) and Woakes (3/83) all bowled more than 30 overs, while Moeen Ali (2/118) also came close to that mark. It was largely thankless work, with Rohit Sharma (127), KL Rahul (46), Cheteshwar Pujara (61) and Virat Kohli (44) laying the perfect platform for Rishabh Pant (50) and Shardul Thakur (60) to cash in on. Even tailenders Umesh Yadav (25) and Jasprit Bumrah (24) got amongst the runs.
While it was a tough day and a half for England, for Woakes there was a serious silver lining.
“We felt like it was a good enough wicket to be able to chase any score.
"To go all the way and chase down that score would be an incredible effort. It would be a great, great chase.
"But our openers have done a great job and put us in a good position to start on the final day. To get another 291 on a day-five pitch always sounds like a tough ask but we've got to keep reminding ourselves that this pitch is still good for batting and we can do it if we bat well all the way down.
"We just have to tick it off slowly. We won't get too far ahead of ourselves. I hear that it'll be a full house here at The Oval, so the atmosphere will be great. And that's where you want to be as a player.”
For India, Jadeja looms as a key man in the match’s final chapter, with the left-arm finger-spinner getting plenty of encouragement in the closing stages of day four.
“Jadeja will play a massive role in tomorrow’s game,” India batting coach Vikram Rathour said, while noting it would take wickets across the board for India to win. “The fifth day wicket – there is rough outside for left-handers on their offside.
“He bowled really well today, bowled with a lot of control in the last five or six overs that he bowled, and did create lots of opportunities. Tomorrow with a little bit of luck I think those opportunities will turn into wickets.
“To pick 10 wickets I think everyone will have to chip in.”
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