Images from Day 4 of the fourth Test between England and India, at The Oval, on Sunday.
The under-fire opening pair of Haseeb Hameed and Rory Burns gave England a strong start after the indomitable Shadul Thakur and calm Rishabh Pant ensured India a 367-run lead, as the fourth Test entered an engrossing home stretch.
Hameed (batting on 43 off 85 balls) and Burns (batting on 31 off 109 balls) put on a 77-run partnership in 32 overs, on a placid track that showed little signs of wear and tear, after Thakur (60 off 72 balls) and Pant (50 off 107 balls) helped India put up a commendable 466 in their second innings on Day 4, at The Oval in London, on Sunday.
With 291 runs of the target of 368 required on the final day, England, who were 77 without loss at stumps on day 4, will at least fancy a draw, if not victory, as the pitch has nothing on offer for the bowlers.
Ravindra Jadeja (0 for 28 in 13 overs), whose primary skill has been overlooked by the team management, looked pedestrian during the overs he bowled on the penultimate evening. A few balls did turn, but Burns tackled them with ease.
The only bowler who made an impact was Jasprit Bumrah (7-3-11-0); he, at least, tried to exert some pressure on the openers.
However, India still have their nose ahead in the game largely due to the performance of the lower middle-order where Thakur, the batsman, exceeded everyone's expectations with a second half-century in the match.
He was well-complemented by Pant, who finally got some runs under his belt showing admirable restraint and sense of responsibility during the duo's 100-run stand.
Credit should also go to Umesh Yadav (25) and Bumrah (24), who also played little cameos in taking the target past the 350-run mark.
Had Thakur-Pant not played their part, England would have ended up chasing a lesser total after yet another all-too familiar middle order collapse.
Virat Kohli missed out on a half-century after another dismissal outside the off-stump even as India extended their lead to 230 runs by lunch on Day 4 of the fourth Test against England, at The Oval in London, on Sunday.
At the break, India were 329 for 6, with Rishabh Pant unbeaten on 16 batting and Shardul Thakur on 11.
Earlier, in the morning session Ajinkya Rahane failed to prove his worth, as Chris Woakes (25-8-47-2) dismissed him with an off-cutter for a duck.
Before that the England pacer sent back Ravindra Jadeja (17) with a leg-cutter (off-cutter for the batsman) after the left-hander put on 59 for the fourth wicket with skipper Kohli, who was dismissed by Moeen Ali after a stylish knock comprising seven boundaries.
A slider from Moeen (19-0-79-1) saw Kohli play by plonking his front-foot way down the track. He wanted play for the off-break, but as it is in the case of sliders, the ball went straight and took the outside edge which lodged into Craig Overton's big palms at first slip.
Thereafter, it was another mini middle-order collapse from 296 for 3 to 312 for 6 in the space of 10 overs.
Kohli, who came in at an overnight score of 22, looked comfortable as the copybook cover drive off James Anderson suggested. He looked mostly in control, but the same can't be said about some of his other teammates.
Jadeja was more intent on leaving deliveries and let Kohli do all the scoring before Woakes got one to jag back off length and hit him on the pads.
India's vice-captain Rahane cut a sorry picture during his eight-ball stay. He was adjudged out earlier but the Decision Review saved him. He wasn’t as lucky the second time as Woakes's delivery hit him below the knee roll.
Hoping against hope, Rahane asked Kohli if he could review and the captain answered in negative.
After another failure the veteran of 78 Tests is slowly making his place in the playing eleven untenable.
His sequence of scores since the WTC final reads 49, 15, 5, 1, 61, 18, 10, 14, 0. A total of 173 runs in nine completed innings does not augur well for the Mumbai batsman.
Shardul Thakur smashed his second half-century of the match and Rishabh Pant showed required restraint while returning to form as India amassed a commendable 445 for the loss of eight wickets by tea.
India have an overall lead to 346 and anything in the range of 350 will be a Herculean task for the home team to chase down on a fifth day track, which has shown some signs of turn.
India did encounter another mini middle-order collapse as they slumped from 296 for 3 to 312 for 6 in the space of 10 overs in the first session, but Thakur (60 off 72 balls) and Pant (50 off 107 balls) joined forces to add 100 runs for the seventh wicket.
If that wasn't enough Umesh Yadav (batting on 13) and Jasprit Bumrah (batting on 19) used the long handle gleefully, adding muscle to the already beefed up total.
It did help that the pitch became flatter as the day progressed and under bright sunshine, stroke-play became easier for both the batters as they could hit through the line.
While Shardul, who is fondly called 'Beefy' by the team's head coach Ravi Shastri for his Ian Botham-like exploits, is reinforcing his value as a bowling all-rounder.
His three straight drives were as good as any of the shots that his illustrious seniors Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara hit on the third day.
It was sight to behold as he picked an Ollie Robinson (32-7-105-2) slower early and dispatched it over long-on to reach 49 and then a pull shot for a single helped him complete his fifty.
A couple of his straight drives came after the 50 and it was skipper Joe Root who finally had him edge one to the slips to get England a breakthrough.
By then, he had hit seven fours and a six.
If Shardul's 57 in the first innings had helped the team reach a respectable total, his approach in the second innings ensured that Pant wasn't in his usually "harakiri" mode that brought about his downfall during a number of occasions this summer.
The left hander curbed his instincts, charged down the track and played as per merit of each delivery. When he got to the 30s he lofted Moeen Ali for a one bounce four and in his 40s charged out to slash James Anderson (33-10-79-1) over cover for a boundary.
His innings had 76 dot balls, which showed that he had learnt from his mistakes. However, he was distraught when he failed to get the elevation and offered a return catch to Moeen (26-0-118-2).