England have chance to rewrite history two years after Ben Stokes’ Ashes miracle

Strap yourselves in. England have given themselves another tilt at cricketing history just two years after they last rewrote the record books.

Just 90 overs on day five, 291 more runs and the finest bowlers India have to offer stand between them and their greatest fourth innings run chase in Test history.

Ben Stokes and Jack Leach shredded the nerve fibres of every English cricket fan with their miraculous effort to chase 359 in 2019, and there's a chance for two new names to take the plaudits come the close on Monday thanks to the steadiest of starts from Haseeb Hameed and Rory Burns.

Facing a target of 368, the opening duo made the most of the flat Oval surface, just as India had done in racking up 466 all out in their second innings, to reach 77-0 by the close of day four.

Don’t get too giddy just yet. There is still a heck of a long way to go for England to become history boys once again, and these sorts of chases rarely run smooth.

But with very few demons in this pitch, and with the world’s best batsman due in at four, it is easy to see why day five is now sold out. People are expecting a show.

And why not? After all it would be in keeping with this utterly captivating Test match that has swung one way then the other with these two teams trading high quality blows day after day.

India remain the most dominant Test side in the world over the past few years and England have only just started to find some form with the bat beyond Joe Root.

But both teams have been able to grab and then relinquish the momentum in this match at various times, so who is to say who will start brightest on Monday.

“It is so flat out there,” said Moeen Ali. “But India always fight back hard and come back the next day.

“It’s poised to be an excellent game, I thought the boys batted excellently tonight. Hopefully tomorrow we can win.

“Both teams have given their advantage away at times. I gave it away with the bat in the first innings, I tried to hit it for six and that was a crucial point of the game.”

There were plenty more crucial points though, and on day four India appeared to be winning most of them, until England’s openers got to work.

With plenty to do in order to set England a testing target it was India’s middle order engine room of Rishabh Pant and Shardul Thakur who made the difference.

Chris Woakes had sparked some excitement by removing Ravi Jadeja and Ajinkya Rahane both lbw in quick succession.

And when Moeen teased an edge from Virat Kohli straight to slip, to go past Jim Laker as England’s third most successful Test spinner, the lead stood at 213.

By the time Thakur and Pant were separated, that lead had increased to 313 with both men reaching half centuries England facing a far stiffer target than they would have wanted.

Not only that, the mainstays of their bowling attack in the series, Ollie Robinson and James Anderson looked all but broken.

With Jasprit Bumrah and Umesh Yadav able to add another 56 runs for the final two wickets, England were in danger of collapsing under scoreboard pressure.

Thankfully Hameed and Burns had other ideas.

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