Root and Bairstow put England on the cusp of history


England are closing in on a sensational win over India in the fifth Test after a riveting fourth day at Edgbaston.

Set a target of 378 – an England record – the home side thrillingly moved to 259-3, needing 119 more on the final day.

In an electric period in the afternoon, openers Alex Lees and Zak Crawley shared a century stand in 19.5 overs, the fastest England have ever reached 100 without loss.

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India fought back with three wickets for two runs either side of tea, only for Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow to pick up the pursuit with an unbroken partnership of 150.

Root ended the day on 76 not out and Bairstow, who could have been caught twice, was unbeaten on 72.

It leaves the prospect of a classic finish in front of a capacity crowd on Tuesday, after the free tickets made available were snapped up in little more than an hour.

Earlier on Monday, India carelessly lost their last six wickets for 55 runs to be bowled out for 245.

Cheteshwar Pujara was out for 66 and Rishabh Pant 57 before England captain Ben Stokes ran through the lower order for 4-33.

India are 2-1 up and looking for their first series win in England since 2007, with this final Test held over from last year after it was postponed in September.

England believe at electric Edgbaston

Even by the standards of what England achieved in their 3-0 series win against New Zealand, it would be utterly remarkable if they were to complete this run chase – the ninth-largest in the history of Test cricket.

And yet, the confidence seeping out of the England dressing merged with the optimism of an expectant crowd to create a tidal wave of belief in Birmingham.

Even after India were suckered in by the home side’s short-ball tactics early in the day, England’s task seemed too large, but the way Lees and Crawley set about the chase was astonishing.

India’s counter-punch was just as intense, with former captain Virat Kohli’s histrionics putting him centre stage.

Any momentum the tourists had was quashed by Root and Bairstow, who will return on a pitch showing no demons and with the second new ball more than 20 overs away. India, meanwhile, will cling to the hope that they are only two wickets from England’s lower order.

Regardless of the result, this fourth day will live long in the memory.

England take shot at history

England have constantly said they are happy to chase any target, and will do so in an ultra-aggressive style, but to bounce along at such a rate against a high-quality attack was astonishing.

Lees walked down the track to Mohammed Shami in the second over of the innings and later greeted the spin of Ravindra Jadeja with a biff down the ground followed by a reverse sweep. His 56 is his second Test half-century.

Crawley, previously bereft of form, showed much more certainty outside off stump. He grew into playing sweet drives until, on 46, his judgement failed and he left one that Jasprit Bumrah got to come back. India had just persuaded the umpires to change the ball.

It began a crazy period where Ollie Pope was caught behind off Bumrah from the first ball after tea, then Lees, who had verbally jousted with the Indians, was run out after failing to respond to Root’s call.

England were teetering, but the Root-Bairstow rebuild came at more than four runs an over. Bairstow, on 14, burst the hands of Hanuma Vihari at wide second slip with an edge off Mohammed Siraj and could have been caught down the leg side by diving wicketkeeper Pant on 39.

By the end, with the field scattered and India scrambled, England were scoring runs at will. They will not have wanted the close to arrive. (BBC)

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