The fifth Test between England and India at Old Trafford has been called off due to fears of rising coronavirus cases in the tourists' camp.

The start of the final match in the series had been in doubt after India cancelled a practice session on Thursday as a result of a member of their support staff testing positive for COVID-19.

England had been hopeful of the contest, which was due to begin at 11:00BST on Friday, going ahead as planned.

But after talks between the England and Wales Cricket (ECB) board and their Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) counterparts, the match has been cancelled.

"Following ongoing conversations with the BCCI, the ECB can confirm that the fifth LV= Insurance Test between England and India men due to start today at Emirates Old Trafford, will be cancelled," an ECB statement read.

"Due to fears of a further increase in the number of COVID cases inside the camp, India are regrettably unable to field a team.

"We send our sincere apologies to fans and partners for this news, which we know will cause immense disappointment and inconvenience to many."

The statement initially said India had forfeited the final Test and the series was drawn at 2-2, but that was later removed.

India head coach Ravi Shastri tested positive for coronavirus ahead of last week's 157-run win at The Oval, which gave his side a 2-1 lead in the five-Test series, while bowling coach Bharat Arun, fielding coach R Sridhar and physio Nitin Patel isolated as a precautionary measure.

The overall number of positive cases climbed this week after another backroom staff member, reported to be a junior physio, also contracted the respiratory disease.

The entire India squad returned negative PCR Tests on Thursday, though any hopes of rescheduling the match appear unlikely given the start of the Indian Premier League on September 19, four days after the England series was due to finish.

The fifth Test between England and India at Old Trafford has been called off due to concerns over rising number of coronavirus cases in the tourists' camp.

The start of the final match in the series had been in doubt after India cancelled a practice session on Thursday as a result of a member of their support staff testing positive for COVID-19.

England had been hopeful of the contest, which was due to begin at 11:00BST on Friday, going ahead as planned.

But after talks between the England and Wales Cricket (ECB) board and their Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) counterparts, the match has been cancelled.

"Following ongoing conversations with the BCCI, the ECB can confirm that the fifth LV= Insurance Test between England and India men due to start today at Emirates Old Trafford, will be cancelled," an ECB statement read.

"Due to fears of a further increase in the number of COVID cases inside the camp, India are regrettably unable to field a team.

"We send our sincere apologies to fans and partners for this news, which we know will cause immense disappointment and inconvenience to many."

India head coach Ravi Shastri tested positive for coronavirus ahead of last week's 157-run win at The Oval, which gave his side a 2-1 lead in the five-Test series, while bowling coach Bharat Arun, fielding coach R Sridhar and physio Nitin Patel isolated as a precautionary measure.

The overall number of positive cases climbed this week after another backroom staff member, reported to be a junior physio, also contracted the respiratory disease.

The entire India squad returned negative PCR Tests on Thursday, though it has been reported that some players raised concerns around leaving the United Kingdom ahead of the start of the Indian Premier League on September 19, four days after the England series was due to finish.

The fifth Test between England and India at Old Trafford has been called off due to concerns over rising number of coronavirus cases in the tourists' camp.

The start of the final match in the series had been in doubt after India cancelled a practice session on Thursday as a result of a member of their support staff testing positive for COVID-19.

Jos Buttler said England have their "fingers crossed" that the fifth Test against India will go ahead at Old Trafford after the tourists were hit by a new COVID-19 case.

A member of India's support staff, reported by the Times of India to be a junior physio, has tested positive for coronavirus, and the team did not appear for a net session or hold a news conference on Thursday.

On the eve of the match, the last in a series in which India hold a 2-1 lead, it remained to be seen whether there could be an issue with it going ahead as scheduled.

India do not want to concede the match, yet this is the latest case in their camp, after head coach Ravi Shastri and two members of his staff also tested positive and were sidelined during the fourth Test at The Oval.

England wicketkeeper-batsman Buttler said: "At present we're fully expecting the game to go ahead. We're preparing to play tomorrow and fingers crossed the game will go ahead.

"Things are all fine in our camp and we trained well this morning so, hopefully, we're looking forward to the game tomorrow."

The Oval defeat for England came as India carved through the hosts' batting line-up on the final day, reducing them from 100-0 to 210 all out, earning a 157-run success.

"It was a fantastic Test match for the neutrals," said Buttler, who missed the game as his wife gave birth. "The team played some brilliant cricket for large parts of that game but couldn't quite get it done.

"As a group we're determined to win this Test match and level this series. Spirits are high and so it's one last big push this summer for a must-win game for us."

England have a proud Old Trafford record against India to defend, having never lost in the nine matches the teams have contested at the ground. England have four wins and five draws in their head-to-head, winning by an innings and 54 runs when the teams last played in Manchester, in August 2014.

An Old Trafford draw in 1990 featured the first Test century of Sachin Tendulkar's stellar career, the then 17-year-old making 119 not out in the fourth innings of the contest.

 

BUTTLER SEES ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

Buttler made a Test ton against India at Trent Bridge three years ago, and a return to that level of form would be welcome after a run of low scores, with 25 his highest across five Test innings in this series.

"I haven't played my best by a long stretch," Buttler said. "I think I've felt like that the whole season. It's on yourself as a player to put the work in, to train hard and make some runs.

"I've been working hard on that and that's the challenge of the game: can you do the work to give yourself the best chance to perform in the middle?"

For the Lancashire player, home advantage may help in the coming days.

ANDERSON COULD TAKE CENTRE STAGE

Another player relishing the chance to shine at his county ground will be James Anderson, England's evergreen paceman.

The 39-year-old has 15 wickets at an average of 24.66 so far in this series, and Buttler is confident Anderson and fellow quick Ollie Robinson will be raring to go after a heavy Oval workload.

"They've bowled a lot of overs and bowled fantastically well," said Buttler. "They've rightfully taken rest in the few days since the last game.

"But they seem to be pulling up well. Jimmy is a fantastically fit guy who looks after himself and Ollie's exactly the same. Fingers crossed they'll both be in good shape and available for selection."

Robinson has a series-high 21 wickets at 21.33, and his contribution could be important as England target a fourth straight win in Tests at Old Trafford. 

The last and only time they enjoyed a longer winning run at the venue was a four-match span from July 2006 to June 2010. England have not lost consecutive home Tests against India since June 1986, which was the first time that had occurred.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– India last won a Test series against England, in England, in 2007. To deny them, England will be chasing a win that would be their 50th in men's Tests against India. They have passed that landmark against three other Test teams previously: 110 wins against Australia, 64 against South Africa and 51 against West Indies.

– England have not lost back-to-back men's home Tests since July 2008, when South Africa were the opposition.

– India captain Virat Kohli is 40 away from becoming the fifth player to score 2,000 runs in men's Tests between England and India (Tendulkar – 2,535, Sunil Gavaskar – 2,483, Alastair Cook – 2,431 and Joe Root – 2,353); however, Kohli's Test batting average (43.6) against England is his second lowest against any country (43.3 v West Indies).

– England skipper Root (1,455 in 2021) is 27 away from recording the most runs in men's Tests by an England player in a calendar year (Michael Vaughan – 1,481 in 2002).

Joe Root and England will weigh up over the next couple of days whether to risk James Anderson and Ollie Robinson for the must-win final Test with India.

England head into the fifth Test at Old Trafford 2-1 down in the series after India produced another stirring comeback to prevail by 157 runs at The Oval.

It puts Root in the unenviable position of having to measure the risk against the potential reward of salvaging the series, with Anderson and Robinson having taken on the majority of the workload in the attack.

The absence of all-rounder Ben Stokes, who is taking time away from the game to focus on his mental health, and the injured Jofra Archer, as well as fitness issues for Mark Wood, has led to Anderson (163.3) and Robinson (166.2) bowling 329.5 overs between them.

Robinson is the leading wicket-taker in the series with 21 while Anderson has been similarly impressive, claiming 15 dismissals, but the latter is 39 and management of his playing time is key with The Ashes coming in Australia in December.

Root, who confirmed that Jos Buttler would return as his vice-captain and keep wicket after missing the fourth Test for the birth of his second child, and the selectors have yet to come to a decision on the make-up of the attack.

"That's something that we will weigh up over the next couple of days, these two days are really important for recovery, making sure they're in a position to play Test cricket," he told a media conference. 

"You have to trust the medical advice that's been given and also speak to the players as well, they know their own bodies better than anyone else.

"You never want to go into a Test match putting someone under risk of injury, you want to make sure you do the best thing for a player but you also you don't want to go into a Test match, have someone go down injured and you've one less bowler at your disposal. 

"There are a number of things to factor in, we'll make sure we feel very confident that everyone is fit to take the field and put in a Test-worthy performance when it comes round to selecting a team for this game."

While Robinson and Anderson have excelled with the ball, Root has been the sole standout with the bat for England, racking up 564 runs including three hundreds in a sparkling series for the world's number one Test batsman.

Though openers Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed have each scored a pair of half-centuries, no other player in the side has a ton this series, with Root believing clarity of thought is key to his team-mates changing that fact.

"It's not something that I've always got right, there's been long periods of my career where I was very guilty of getting in and getting out and it might happen again in the future, I really hope it doesn't," Root added. 

"What I have managed to do well so far this year is I know how I want to score my runs, I know where my big strengths are, I just back them completely. Trusted my decision-making under pressure, not doubted it, and when I have got in I've felt like I've had that mindset of 'it's going to take something very special to get me out'.

"Hopefully that can be infectious and feed through the rest of the batting group. It just takes that one person to go on and do it, it can very quickly spread like wildfire and feed into the rest of the group. Hopefully that can materialise this week."

England's home schedule for 2022 has been confirmed with New Zealand, India and South Africa all set to tour during a hectic year.

The ECB released the men's international fixture list on Wednesday, which launches with a three-match Test series against world champions New Zealand in June.

The Black Caps – winners of the inaugural World Test Championship earlier this year – face England at Lord's (June 2-6), Trent Bridge (June 10-14) and Headingley (June 23-27).

Joe Root's side then welcome India for a three-match T20 series beginning at Old Trafford on July 1, before a three-match ODI series follows from July 9 at Edgbaston.

South Africa then arrive for a three-match ODI series starting at Riverside on July 19, before a three-match T20 series between the sides begins in Bristol eight days later.

The Proteas will also provide the opposition as England conclude their calendar year on home soil with a three-match Test series played at Lord's (August 17-21), Edgbaston (August 25-29) and the Oval (September 8-12). 

ECB chief executive officer, Tom Harrison, said: "It has been a scintillating summer of cricket and so good to see crowds back packing out venues later this summer. 

"For next summer, I am pleased to be able to confirm three high-quality men's international touring teams for 2022, starting with a three-Test series against World Test champions New Zealand.

"We also look forward to India returning for two white-ball series before we host South Africa for what promises to be hard-fought series across three formats, including three Test matches."

Wicketkeeper Jos Buttler has returned to England's squad for the fifth and final Test against India, which starts at Old Trafford on Friday.

Buttler missed the fourth Test, a 157-run loss to India at The Oval, to be present at the birth of his second child.

Jonny Bairstow took over wicketkeeping duties in Buttler's absence as England went 2-1 down in the five-match series.

Sam Billings, who was included in the squad for the fourth Test squad as cover for Bairstow, has now returned to Kent.

Left-arm spinner Jack Leach is also named in the 16-man party for the match.

He was in England's squad for the first two Tests against India but not selected, and has not featured in a Test match since March.

Leach would give England captain Joe Root another spin option alongside Moeen Ali.

Fast bowler Mark Wood, who has returned from a shoulder injury, and left-arm seamer Sam Curran, dropped for the fourth Test, are both available.

England coach Chris Silverwood acknowledged that, with James Anderson and Ollie Robinson having toiled at The Oval, he may need to freshen up a fatigued attack.

"We have got some aching bodies, I'm not going to deny that," Silverwood said.

"So we obviously have to keep an eye on that. He [Wood] could come back and if he does, he will obviously add that pace for us.

"If the pitch is abrasive as it usually is at Old Trafford there should be reverse swing."

Lancashire seamer Anderson, England's record wicket-taker, would be loathe to miss out on playing at his home ground.

Silverwood acknowledged that with a short turnaround between Tests he will need to have a discussion with the 39-year-old over his fitness. 

"James knows his own body. He will certainly give me an honest opinion of where he is at, and it's certainly something I will listen to," Silverwood explained.

"It'll be a discussion that he and I will have together. He will have input into that, without a shadow of a doubt.

"I know what it's like, he won't want to miss any cricket. We have to make sure we look after him.

"Although there is a gap between the final Test and what's in front of him, he's certainly someone I want to make sure is looked after."

England squad for the fifth Test against India at Old Trafford:  Joe Root (captain), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Haseeb Hameed, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.

Joe Root demanded England be more ruthless and promised improvements after a 157-run defeat on Monday handed India a 2-1 series lead with one Test to go. 

The tourists' five-man attack shone on day five to collect their first win at The Oval since 1971, Jasprit Bumrah impressing as he became the quickest India paceman to 100 wickets in the longest format. 

After Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed shared England's first 100-run opening stand in the fourth innings since October 2016, Virat Kohli's bowlers ran riot as the hosts collapsed, losing six wickets for 47 runs. 

Bumrah and Shardul Thakur, whose first-innings half-century was the fastest in Test cricket in England, provided the impetus for India and Root pointed to the former as an example. 

"You look at this game, it's been frustrating today to lose 10 wickets," Root said post-match. 

"But I think, when you look where the game was lost, we should have got a bigger lead first time around with the bat. It would have been nice to have another 100 runs and then we're looking at a completely different game. 

"We have to be a bit more ruthless, with the first-innings runs costing us there. And with our catching, we did put down a few chances. Some were extremely difficult but when you give chances and half-chances to world-class players, they take them. 

"You look at that spell from Bumrah, he recognised the key moment in the game and turned it on its head. It's something we have to look at doing ourselves." 

Indeed, Bumrah has taken the second-most wickets in the series (18) behind Ollie Robinson (21), with England the 27-year-old's favourite opponents, striking 36 times at an average of 24.08. 

And it was his afternoon spell, coupled with Thakur's dismissal of Root, that got the ball rolling for Kohli's men. 

"I think it's something we have to get better at and keep looking to improve, recognising those key moments in games and forcing things a little bit more," Root continued. 

"We did it very well at Headingley but here we did not manage that and it's something we have to be more consistent with, looking at certain situations and getting us into that advantageous position. 

"It's hard to take but you have to look at how he responded from Lords to Headingley and we will look to do exactly the same at Old Trafford. We're more than capable of turning things around very quickly."

A mid-afternoon collapse proved England's downfall as Joe Root's team fell to a 157-run defeat against India at The Oval on day five, handing the tourists a 2-1 series lead with one Test to go.

The hosts were facing a record chase of 368, with 291 remaining by the close of play on day four, but succumbed to their first defeat at The Oval against India since 1971 after a collapse of six wickets for 47 runs left them teetering.

Umesh Yadav sealed the win but Shardul Thakur's two wickets proved key – the first of Rory Burns and second of the in-form Joe Root – while Ravindra Jadeja and Jasprit Bumrah both impressed for their two wickets.

After adding 77 without loss on Sunday, Burns brought up the 100-opening stand with Haseeb Hameed and his own half-century, the first time England's openers have reached the landmark in the fourth innings since October 2016.

However, Thakur removed Burns with the next ball caught behind and, after surviving an lbw scare from Jadeja on five, Dawid Malan was run out by substitute Mayank Agarwal.

Hameed – dropped on 55 by Mohammed Siraj – survived until lunch, only to be bowled by Jadeja for 63 before Bumrah became the quickest Indian pacer to 100 Test wickets by dismissing Ollie Pope.

Bumrah's crushing inswinging yorker accounted for Jonny Bairstow and after Jadeja had Moeen Ali caught at short leg for a duck, England were reeling at 147-6.

Root (36) offered resistance but England's captain chopped on to Thakur, with Woakes (18) following.

Craig Overton (10) was dropped on three by Ajinkya Rahane and overturned an lbw decision, but his charmed life ended when Yadav broke through his defences.

Ollie Robinson and James Anderson faced an impossible task, with the latter caught behind off Yadav to wrap up the game.

Brilliant Bumrah

Kapil Dev (25 matches) was the previous fastest Indian quick to reach 100 wickets but Bumrah achieved the feat in his 24th outing.

England are the 27-year-old's favourite Test opponents, with Bumrah taking 36 wickets at an average of 24.08, while striking 18 times in this series – only Robinson (21) has produced more wickets.

England no longer invincible at The Oval

The hosts had lost only one of their last 13 Tests against India at The Oval before Monday (W5, D7), their last loss coming in August 1971 by four wickets.

England had also won three of the last such fixtures, though this defeat has left them facing three consecutive Test series losses if they cannot triumph in the final meeting in Manchester.

Pakistan head coach Misbah-ul-Haq and bowling coach Waqar Younis have resigned from their roles a little over a month before the T20 World Cup begins.

The pair were appointed in September 2019 and were under contract with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for another year.

However, Misbah and Waqar informed the PCB of their decision to leave on Monday ahead of the upcoming three ODIs and five T20Is against New Zealand, with the T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates and Oman also on the horizon.

Saqlain Mushtaq and Abdul Razzaq have joined the Pakistan management team as interim coaches for that New Zealand series, which begins on September 17.

Misbah's decision to step down was for family reasons amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with the 47-year-old having recently spent time self-isolating in Jamaica after testing positive for COVID-19.

"The quarantine in Jamaica post the West Indies series provided me with an opportunity to reflect on the past 24 months as well as the schedule for international cricket ahead," Misbah said in a statement. 

"Considering that I would have had to continue to spend considerable time away from my family and that too in a bio-secure environment, I have decided to step down from the role.

"I understand that the timing may not be ideal but I don't think I am in the right frame of mind for the upcoming challenges and it makes sense for someone fresh to step in and take the side forward.

"The past 24 months have been thoroughly enjoyable and I want to thank my team and the management for their support. 

"I wish the Pakistan cricket team best of luck in the upcoming events and will continue to support them every time they will take the field to represent Pakistan."

Waqar's decision to step down was linked to Misbah's departure. 

"After Misbah shared with me his decision and future plans, it was a straightforward one for me to resign as we had walked into the roles together, had worked collectively as a pair and now also step down together," Waqar said.

"Working with the Pakistan bowlers, including the youngsters, has been most satisfying as they have now started to show progress. 

"Bio-secure environments in the past 16 months have had their impact, something we had never experienced during our playing days.

"The next eight months will be busy and exciting for the Pakistan team and, like in the past, I will continue to back and cheer them. 

"I want to thank each and every member of the Pakistan cricket team set-up as we stayed united in good and bad days, and hope there will be brighter days ahead."

The shock double exit came two hours after Pakistan had named their squad for the T20 World Cup, as well as the warm-up internationals against New Zealand and England.

Asif Ali and Khushdil Shah were among the surprise inclusions in the 15-man selection.

 

Pakistan squad: Babar Azam (c), Asif Ali, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Hasnain, Azam Khan, Shadab Khan, Sohaib Maqsood, Mohammad Nawaz, Haris Rauf, Mohammad Rizwan, Khushdil Shah, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Wasim.

England set up a tantalising fifth day of the fourth Test by making immediate inroads after India set them a record run chase at The Oval.

Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed chipped away at the target of 368, reaching 31 and 43 respectively, as England advanced to 77-0 at stumps.

Armed with a 99-run first-innings lead, England's hopes of establishing a lead in this series were dealt a huge blow after India totted up 466 batting second time around.

However, there remains the possibility of a famous home victory. Should England pull this off, they will take a 2-1 lead heading to the final Test at Old Trafford, but they would have to beat the highest total ever posted by a team winning against India from a fourth-innings chase.

That is currently the 342-8 achieved by Australia in 1977 at Perth. Tony Mann hit a century for Australia in that win and England need at least one batsman to step up and make a big score to anchor this innings.

There were positive signs as openers Burns and Hameed put on a half-century partnership, with Haseeb surviving a late lbw appeal as India used up a review, but England are still 291 short.

Earlier on day four, Rishabh Pant made 50, ending a run of three single-figure scores. Shardul Thakur plundered his second half-century of this match, adding 60 to his first-innings 57, prospering with the bat in the fourth Test match of his career and second of this tour.

Pant rode his luck, with England blowing a glorious chance to run him out when he was on 37. Pant set off for a run before scampering back, and Moeen Ali had the first chance to throw down the stumps. He missed, and Hameed, backing up, fumbled the ball when Pant was still well short of his ground.

Home captain Joe Root broke up a partnership of 100 when he had Thakur caught by Craig Overton at slip, and Moeen struck moments later to remove Pant when he took a sharp return chance off his own bowling as the India batsman looked to go over the top.

India were eight down, but their lead was 315, and the runs kept coming, Umesh Yadav flogging Moeen for a brazen six over cow corner, before hoiking a delivery Woakes over the ropes too. His 25 from 23 balls, plus 24 from Jasprit Bumrah, left England staring at their daunting target.

BURNS SEES OFF DUCK DANGER

It has been a year of mixed fortunes at Test level for Burns, who has five ducks in 2021 on England duty. When he has got off the mark, however, it has often been a different story, with Burns, including this ongoing knock, making 460 at an average for those innings of 51.11.

HAMEED CAN COME OF AGE

There are Ashes places at stake, and the high-tension moments that await England on Monday can be considered comparable to those that may await in Australia. One-time boy wonder Hameed can book his place on the plane, surely, if he converts this strong start into something special. His Test best of 82 came almost five years ago, and to top that here would give England a terrific platform.

India have announced head coach Ravi Shastri is isolating after testing positive for COVID-19 during the fourth Test against England.  

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) issued a statement ahead of play on the fourth day of the game confirming Shastri will remain in the team hotel after undergoing further tests following the initial lateral flow result.  

Bowling coach Bharat Arun, fielding coach R Sridhar and physio Nitin Patel are also isolating as a precautionary measure, having been identified as close contacts.  

"They have undergone RT-PCR testing and shall remain in the team hotel and not travel with team India until confirmation from the medical team," a BCCI statement read.  

"The remaining members of the team India contingent underwent two lateral flow tests – one last night and another this morning. The members upon returning negative COVID reports were allowed to proceed for day four of the ongoing fourth Test at The Oval." 

India resumed on Sunday on 270-3 in their second innings, Rohit Sharma’s first Test century overseas helping them establish a 171-run lead over their hosts. 

The series is level at 1-1 after England won by an innings at Headingley last time out. The fifth and final Test begins at Old Trafford in Manchester on Friday. 

Rohit Sharma led the way with his first Test century outside India as the tourists bossed day three of the fourth Test against England.

India had trailed by 99 runs on first innings, but they were on course for a hefty total batting second time around, reaching 270-3 at stumps at The Oval.

It was 34-year-old Sharma who did much of the leg work, amassing 127 on a flat pitch before falling victim to the first delivery after England took the new ball, caught on the pull off Ollie Robinson.

KL Rahul fell for 46 and Cheteshwar Pujara made a handy 61, with bad light bringing an early end to play in south London after India had built a lead of 171 runs.

Trailing by 56 overnight, on 43-0 in their second bat, India were looking for openers Rohit and Rahul to move them ahead in the game, yet they lost the latter midway through the morning session, with James Anderson drawing a thin nick through to Jonny Bairstow. England's initial appeals were rebuffed, but a review showed the batsman had feathered the ball on its way to the wicketkeeper.

From 83-1, India pushed on and Pujara bludgeoned Moeen over square leg to the boundary to nudge the tourists ahead in the match.

Rohit reached his century with a mighty six over long-on off Moeen Ali in the 64th over, with Virat Kohli leading the acclaim on the players' balcony. It was Rohit's eighth ton overall in the longest format, and his second against England, having made 161 in February of this year in Chennai, where India landed victory by 317 runs.

This match took a twist with the introduction of the new ball after 80 overs, as Robinson removed Rohit immediately and dismissed Pujara five balls later. Rohit got a top edge on a short ball and Chris Woakes held on well at long leg, before Pujara was snared on review, getting an inside edge into his thigh pad, the ball squirting out to Moeen at slip.

India took their lead past 150 when Kohli hit Robinson for two boundaries in three balls, finding the ropes either side of a big lbw appeal. Replays showed the ball to be zipping over leg stump by a couple of inches. But it was an overcast afternoon and as England sought to make late inroads, those hopes were scuppered by the light meters.

ROHIT JOINS ELITE LIST

Rohit had a day to savour, becoming the sixth India opening batsman to make a Test century against England at The Oval, joining a top-class line-up of those that have gone before him. Vijay Merchant was the first, in 1946, followed by Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri, Rahul Dravid and KL Rahul.

PARTNERSHIPS COME GOOD

Rohit and Rahul became the eighth pair of touring openers to plunder at least three first-wicket stands worth 80 or more in a Test series in England. Then Rahul and Pujara put on the equal highest second-wicket partnership by an India pair against England at The Oval, matching the 153-run partnership between Gavaskar and Dilip Vengsarkar in 1979. On that occasion, India recovered from a first-innings deficit of 103 to almost win the match, finishing nine runs short with two wickets standing when an epic contest was called a draw.

Ollie Pope's excellent 81 had England in a healthy position on day two of the second Test before India finished strongly to leave the match deliciously poised going into the weekend.

With England reeling at 62-5, Pope shared stands of 89 and 71 with Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali at The Oval, while a quickfire half-century from Chris Woakes led the hosts to 290 and a 99-run first-innings lead.

But Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul made it to the close unbeaten, with India at 43-0 in their second innings and aiming to build a lead on day three in a fourth Test that could still go either way.

England were in a worrying position when nightwatchman Craig Overton and birthday boy David Malan departed to the impressive Umesh Yadav in a bright start to the morning session for the tourists.

But India soon lost their discipline, with Pope – playing his first Test of an excellent series – fluently turning the tide, aggressively hitting Shardul Thakur for four three times in the same over.

Bairstow (37) looked in the mood too, only to be trapped lbw before lunch by Mohammed Siraj. Moeen (35) took up the mantle but cheaply slogged a slower Ravindra Jadeja delivery to the covers.

Pope remained stubborn in his resistance until he dabbed at a Thakur outswinger and edged onto his wickets.

Woakes continued to frustrate India, though, and a valuable 35-run 10th-wicket stand alongside James Anderson – who contributed a solitary run to the effort – left England with a decent lead.

By the close India had chipped their arrears down to 56, with Rohit surpassing 15,000 international career runs and unbeaten on 20 alongside Rahul (22).

POPE TO THE RESCUE

Prior to Friday's play, Pope had reached 50 on nine occasions at his home ground in first-class cricket, converting seven of those knocks to centuries.

His latest half-century did not lead to three figures, but had it not been for his measured display then the outlook of this Test would have been looking significantly bleaker for Joe Root's men.

Before the start of play, Pope was averaging 100.71 in first-class matches at The Oval, and he stepped up again.

WOAKES A DIFFERENCE MAKER AGAIN

Returning to the Test arena for the first time in over a year, Woakes made up for lost time with four wickets on day one on Thursday.

His contribution with the bat here was just as valuable. Having been on course at one stage to be trailing after the first innings, Woakes' knock of 50 – which came off 60 balls and contained 11 fours – added to the foundations Pope had built for England.

Chris Woakes made an instant impact on his return as England bowled India out for 191, only for Joe Root to fall late on as the visitors fought back on a frantic day one of the fourth Test. 

England levelled the five-match series at 1-1 with a resounding innings victory at Headingley last weekend after bowling their opponents out for only 78 on the first day. 

India struggled with the bat again after being put in by Root at The Oval on Thursday, captain Virat Kohli falling for 50 as they collapsed to 127-7. 

The recalled Shardul Thakur (57) blasted the fastest Test half-century ever made in England, reaching the landmark off just 31 balls, before India were all out in the 62nd over after the final three wickets fell for one run. 

Jasprit Bumrah (2-15) dismissed Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed to reduce England to 6-2 in a brilliant opening spell and Umesh Yadav struck a huge blow by bowling the in-form Root (21). 

England reached 53-3 at stumps - trailing by 138 - with Dawid Malan unbeaten on 26 and nightwatchman Craig Overton (one not out) ensuring no further damage was done. 

Woakes took 4-55 in his first Test for just over a year, including seeing the back of Rohit Sharma with a peach of a delivery in his first over. 

He also dismissed Ravindra Jadeja, promoted to number five in the order, and was gifted a further wicket when Rishabh Pant was caught at mid-off trying to hit over the top. Thakur was his final victim, though not before playing a potentially crucial cameo. 

Kohli showed his class with some glorious drives before he edged a great delivery from Ollie Robinson (3-38) through to Jonny Bairstow, who took four catches on his return to wicketkeeping duties with Jos Buttler absent.

James Anderson and Overton also took a wicket apiece in another relentless performance from the England attack. 

Bumrah was run out by Burns without facing a ball in a chaotic end to the India innings, but Kohli's men hit back impressively in the final session.

 

WOAKES MAKES UP FOR LOST TIME 

Woakes had not played for his country in the longest format since last August and he made up for lost time having recovered from a heel injury. 

Pant's latest rush of blood to the head gifted Woakes a third wicket and although he took some treatment from Thakur, the seamer had the last laugh when he ended his entertaining knock thanks to a well-judged review. 

THAKUR TAKES HIS CHANCE 

Thakur - recalled along with Umesh as Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma missed out - was another to make his mark, producing a swashbuckling knock after striding to the crease with his team in big trouble. 

He was dismissed without scoring in the first match at Test Bridge but went on the attack to give India some hope as he dominated a much-needed eighth-wicket stand of 63 in just eight overs, hitting three sixes and seven fours in a dramatic hour at the crease, during which he faced only 36 balls. 

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