Day 4 of this final Specsavers Test could have gone one of two ways.
Either, India would have fought back commendably and broken the overnight partnership quickly, and continued to bowl England out by tea time, to have a reachable target of around 275-300.
Or, Alastair Cook, playing in his final ever Test innings, would have a near on perfect innings, and he and Root would bat England to a commanding position and essentially bat India out of the game.
It was indeed the latter version that came to fruition, as Cook and Root just batted and batted and batted.
The session could not have gone better for England, and Cook in particular, as Root and Cook put on 129 runs in the morning session as England got to lunch on 243-2, with a very healthy lead of 283, with Cook on 103* and Root, nearing his 14th Test century on, 92*.
The moment Cook got to his century was rather comical, an overthrow to the boundary for four was what got him to the 3-figures. It was a fairy tale moment for Cook, and the longest standing ovation I have ever seen as Cook reached his 33rd and final Test match century, in his final ever Test.
Alastair Cook, started out as a 22 year old, playing his debut Test in India and scored a 2nd innings century. He ends his Test career 12 years later, at the Oval with a 2nd innings century. This is the stuff of dreams.
It was then Joe Root’s turn to get to his Test century, the relief as he got that single was clear to see. A very good and fluent innings from the England captain, as England’s lead grew to over 300 runs.
It took India 40 minutes before the tea break to get the breakthrough, and it came from debutant Hanuma Vihari who got a double wicket maiden.
Joe Root was first dismissed for a brilliant 125, and then, the time finally came for Alastair Cook to end his Test career, as he nicked one behind to Pant off Vihari on 147. Cook finished his Test career with an average of 45.35.
Root and Cook batted in a sublime 259-run partnership, they completely batted India out of the game. Ishant Sharma was off the field with an injury that put additional pressure on the remaining pace attack. India lost the plot to be honest.
England lost 4-35 (Root, Cook, Bairstow and Buttler) in the space of 30 minutes or so in a frenetic passage of play before the tea interval. But despite the late flurry of wickets in the session, England were still in the driving seat, as Stokes and Curran took England to tea with a lead of 404.
Adil Rashid, having done very little in the course of the series, decided to have some fun, as he went on an onslaught, scoring a quick-fire 20 runs off 14 balls as England finally declared on 423-8, setting India the highly improbable target of 464 to win the Test.
Things could not have gone worse for India in their 2nd innings. James Anderson, needing 3 wickets to overtake Glenn McGrath, bowled a quite honestly, brilliant over to India’s fragile top order. In a double wicket maiden, he trapped struggling opener, Shikhar Dhawan LBW for 1 and then 3 deliveries later, trapped Cheteshwar Pujara for a 3-ball duck LBW, to then equal McGrath’s record.
Dhawan finished the tour to England with an average of 27. His highest score in the series was 44 in the 3rd Test, whereas in his other innings’, he struggled to reach even 30. He provides absolutely zero stability at the top of the order. He is a liability and should be dropped.
The big one though, was Virat Kohli, who half-halfheartedly went at one from Stuart Broad, got the edge and was gone for a golden duck, leaving India in complete tatters on 2-3 in only 3.2 overs (20 balls).
Virat Kohli’s 1st ball duck, given the series he has had, on a personal level, was simply unthinkable, and it just summed up India’s whole tour. The batting showed very little application and fight and succumbed to the pressure.
Ajinkya Rahane and young opener KL Rahul steadied the ship as they got India to 58-3 at stumps, in an unbeaten 56 run partnership, with Rahul drawing closer to reaching his 12th Test half century. For India’s sake, I hope he gets there and shows some much needed fight and resistance.
It was a day of records, Alastair Cook became the 5th highest run scorer ever in Test Cricket, he became the highest scoring left-hander in Test Cricket, overtaking the great Kumar Sangakkara, and Jimmy Anderson equaled the great Glenn McGrath in Test wickets. He now needs only 1 more to become the highest wicket taking bowler in Tests. With 7 Indian wickets left to take on day 5, the probability of this happening is very high.
This has been a long summer of Cricket in the UK, it has seen some great matches and some great contests. With only 1 more day left, I for one am hoping the last day of the cricketing summer is not a disappointment.