|First Test, Chennai (day four)|
|England 578 (Root 218) & 178 (Root 40, Ashwin 6-61)|
|India 337 (Pant 91, Sundar 85, Bess 4-76) & 39-1|
|India need further 381 to win|
England will need nine wickets on the final day to beat India after setting up their victory push on day four of the first Test in Chennai.
India closed on 39-1, requiring a record 420 to win or, more realistically, needing to bat out the final day for a draw.
India, who faced 13 overs, lost opener Rohit Sharma to Jack Leach.
Shubman Gill and Cheteshwar Pujara reached the close unbeaten on 15 and 12 respectively.
England were tentative in their attempt to set India a challenging target – posting 178 all out from 46.3 overs.
They initially batted positively – building on a 241-run first-innings lead secured earlier in the day – but their scoring rate dropped to a crawl after tea.
Rather than declare, they batted on, allowing overs to be lost from the game – overs which they may need when they attempt to take nine wickets on day five.
India began day four on 257-6 in their first innings and added 80 runs before they were dismissed for 337 shortly before lunch.
Washington Sundar made an impressive 85 while James Anderson and Leach took two wickets each.
Should England secure victory and take a 1-0 lead in the four-Test series, it would mean just a second defeat for India on home soil since 2013.
England still on top despite strange day
The route taken by England to get to this position was curious, but they are still favourites to claim one of their most famous wins in recent years.
There has been enough in the pitch, particularly with the new ball, for England to be confident of securing victory.
India, led by Sundar, made a solid start in the morning but when the new ball was taken, the final four wickets fell for 32 runs.
The hosts opened with spin from both ends and England opener Rory Burns edged to slip from the first ball of England’s second innings.
He fell to Ravichandran Ashwin, who also dismissed Dom Sibley for 16 with another ball that turned, bounced and found leg slip. Batting was difficult. India’s off-spinner finished with 6-61.
India’s quick bowlers found uneven bounce when introduced, another boost for England’s chances.
Ishant Sharma dismissed Dan Lawrence lbw with a ball that kept low for his 300th Test wicket and Jasprit Bumrah did the same to Joe Root, after the England captain had made a breezy 40.
England were strangely flat for much of their late burst with the ball; Jofra Archer not offering the penetration of the first innings.
But Leach’s wicket of Rohit was a fine delivery that pitched on middle stump and hit off, highlighting the difficulties India will face.
Should England have declared sooner?
If England do not win, questions will be asked of their approach with the bat.
They were 130-5 after 28.3 overs, seemingly batting at a good rate for declaration, before the dismissal of Ollie Pope sparked a clear change of approach.
Dom Bess came in and repeatedly kicked the ball out of the rough. There was little attempt to continue to score quickly. India, too, were happy for time to be lost and their over-rate slowed.
As the score crept on, more wickets fell but still no declaration came.
India’s target was already well in excess of the 328 they famously chased in Australia last month and soon passed the 387 the hosts scored in the fourth innings to beat England on this ground in 2008 – the highest fourth-innings chase in the country.
England were still unmoved.
Their logic seemed to be taking overs out of the game, denying India the time to reach their target, while also giving themselves a second new-ball burst on Tuesday morning.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan, speaking on The Cricket Social, said he wished England had “dangled the carrot” with an earlier declaration.
“He [Root] thinks it is harder to bat on the last day with no element of winning at all,” Vaughan said. “My belief would be to have got on with it and declare.”
England’s bowling consultant Jon Lewis defended the tactics after play.
“Obviously it’s first game of the series and whilst you want to get off to a really strong start you don’t want to give India a chance to win,” he said.
“You also want to have attacking fielders the whole day, especially to our spin bowlers, round the bat, so to keep the rate high for them feels like our best chance to win the game.”
Leach wicket was a ‘major blow’ – reaction
Former England captain Michael Vaughan: “England have played great. None of us gave them a chance of winning this series and if they go 1-0 up I still think India will come back strong.
“If England are sat in that dressing room in 24 hours’ time and it’s 0-0, I don’t think they’ll come back from that.”
BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew: “Jack Leach’s wicket was an unplayable delivery that spun from around about leg stump and hit off – the sort of ball that you might get on this pitch that sends a shiver down the spine of the batting side. It was a major blow struck.”