SOUTHAMPTON – Jos Buttler’s well-judged 69 helped to leave India facing a record run-chase if they were to win the fourth Test against England at the Rose Bowl and so level the series.
England were 260/8 in their second innings, a lead of 233 runs, at stumps on Saturday’s third day.
The most India have made to win in the fourth innings of a Test in England is 174 at The Oval in 1971. That match also saw them achieve their first Test win on English soil.
Sam Curran, fresh from his Test-best 78 in the first innings, was 37 not out after adding 55 for the seventh wicket with Buttler.
Adil Rashid (11) was caught behind off a Mohammed Shami leg-cutter off what became the last ball of the day.
The paceman led India’s attack with 3/53 from 13.5 overs.
Last week saw Buttler display a well-judged mixture of aggression and defence during his maiden Test century, albeit one made with India well on the way to a 203-run victory that left them 2-1 down in this five-match series.
Those same qualities were on display in Southampton, where Buttler made 85 on his Test debut, also against India, four years ago.
They were needed after England slumped to 92/4 – the 33rd time in 64 Test innings they had been four wickets down for 100 or fewer runs.
Shami took two wickets in two balls separated by the lunch break before running out England captain Joe Root for 48 with a direct hit.
England resumed on Saturday on 6/0.
They were then 21 runs behind, after Cheteshwar Pujara’s excellent 132 not out, his maiden Test century in England, had guided India to a first-innings total of 27.
Alastair Cook, England’s all-time leading Test run-scorer, and fellow left-handed opener Keaton Jennings both needed runs.
But Cook fell for 12 when, drawn into a loose drive off fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah, he got an edge that second slip KL Rahul clung onto at the third attempt.
England were now 24/1 and that was soon transformed into 33/2.
Moeen Ali, promoted to No 3 instead of Root, became the latest victim of Ishant Sharma’s excellent bowling to left-handed batsmen from around the wicket when an edged drive saw him superbly caught low down by Rahul for nine.
It had looked as if Jennings, under pressure for his England place after a first-innings nought, would bat through the morning until Shami, from round the wicket, had him lbw for 36 with what became the last ball before lunch.
England had decided to play Jonny Bairstow as a specialist batsman, even though he was nursing a broken finger suffered in the field at Trent Bridge last week that meant he could not keep wicket.
Buttler, as he’d done at Nottingham, took over the gloves.
It was a move that did not pay off, with Bairstow suffering a second nought in three innings when he extravagantly tried to drive a Shami in-swinger off the first ball he faced immediately after lunch.
Root had struck six fours when, called for a risky single by all-rounder Ben Stokes, he failed to beat Shami’s direct hit from mid-on.
Stokes, as he’d done at Nottingham, showed plenty of grit with the bat in making 30 off 110 balls.
His innings ended when he edged a well-flighted delivery from off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin to Ajinkya Rahane at slip.
Buttler achieved a more even tempo, going to 50 by cover-driving an Ashwin full-toss for his fifth four in 96 balls.
India took the new ball at a sun-drenched Ageas Bowl with England 223/6 off 82 overs. It had the effect they wanted when Buttler, aiming across the line, was lbw to Sharma.
But 20-year-old left-hander Curran struck Bumrah for two fours in as many balls, including an elegant cover drive.