Determined Vijay keeps England at bay
India 295 and 169 for 4 (Vijay 59*) lead England 319 (Ballance 110, Plunkett 55*, Kumar 6-82) by 145 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
India have lost more Tests at Lord's than at any other venue, but it will take a formidable bowling performance by England on the fourth morning for them to lose this one. They lead by 145 with six wickets remaining, guided there by a serious-minded opener who met the sultriest, most wearing day that London can offer by blocking his way to contentment in a sweater.
M Vijay's share of India's 169 for 4 was 59 not out in 190 balls and four-and-three-quarter hours, an innings of immense watchfulness which burst into life only rarely: a loft down the ground against Moeen Ali; an uncertain, uppish extra-cover drive in the over he reached his fifty which left James Anderson recoiling in disappointment. Just as he contemplated playing more freely after tea, India lost three wickets for five runs in 19 balls. He knew his lot then: he had to confine himself to survival.
What run chase would give England a 50% chance of chasing successfully on this pitch? Perhaps 235, 250 at most? India, after all, do lack a specialist spinner. The pitch has retained its pace; strikingly green on the opening day, it is now strikingly dry. It looked a haven for batting on a somnolent afternoon, but England's bowlers had their dander up as wickets fell after tea and Vijay and Dhoni, one understated, one batting with the passive aggression of somebody strutting the mean streets at midnight, needed all their skill to survive. A couple of Dhoni's walkabouts in his hour-plus at the crease were individualistic to say the least.
Life looked ominous for England at 118 for 1. There was less swing and seam than at any time during the match. Spectators donned emergency headwear - newspapers made into pirate hats, carefully-draped towels and six-hit cards that were unlikely to be needed for their prime purpose on a day like this - and watched with creeping resignation. One lbw appeal by Stuart Broad - a big inside nick by Cheteshwar Pujara - had a bit of a pout about it.
Then Liam Plunkett, who had been down on pace throughout the match, with a tight hamstring offered by way of explanation, removed Pujara and Virat Kohli in successive balls. Pujara, who had been regally composed in making 43, reached defensively for a wide one and edged to the keeper.
Plunkett's next ball, again of goodish length, was a virtual replica - Kohli's first-ball leave-alone had logic on its side, but Plunkett brought the ball back up the slope to strike top of off.
As there will be in a series lacking DRS, there was also an umpiring howler, uncorrected. Bruce Oxenford has not had a good series - he is beginning to resemble a plant by DRS supporters - and there has been nothing to save him. Ajinkya Rahane, India's first-innings century maker, was rapped on the arm guard by a short, hostile delivery, Matt Prior sprinted down the legside to hold a good catch and his appeal was upheld.
The afternoon had less to commend it. Little happened, not that this concerned India who were edging towards a position of authority. Shikhar Dhawan played within himself - he still made 31 in 45 balls - then got out to his first firecracker shot. Ben Stokes dropped short, Dhawan cocked his front leg, leant onto his back foot and rasped the ball through backward point only for Joe Root to plunge to his right and hold an excellent two-handed catch. Having observed a desultory bit of after-you between Root and Gary Ballance in his previous over - a routine not in Yorkshire's training manual - Stokes had reason to be pleasantly surprised.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar had sustained India with another productive bowling display on the third morning, continuing an excellent series with two more wickets and figures of 6 for 82, the first Indian player to take five wickets in successive Tests in England.
After winning such an influential toss, England's 24-run lead must have felt like the worst prize in the Village Hall raffle, the one that you sheepishly realise after winning that you have donated at least twice before.
That England did gain a lead - the last four wickets adding another100 in 19.5 overs - was due to a maiden Test fifty by Plunkett. He came in as a nightwatchman on the second evening, but he did not look remotely out of place as he finished unbeaten on 55. After making a terrible hash of his nightwatchman's stint at Headingley, when he was outfoxed by Rangana Herath, Plunkett took the chance to flex his muscles.
Around him, though, contributions were lacking. Prior threatened but then pulled at Mohammed Shami for Dhawan to lead the pursuit of a swirling catch from slip. When Stokes was cleaned up, on the walk, by Bhuvneshwar, it continued a horrendous run in England colours since late January. He has made 18 runs in nine attempts in all competitions, with five ducks and an average of two. It is a staggering lapse since he shot to prominence at international level with a rumbustious maiden Test century in Perth.
Broad has long consigned himself to a role of late-order hitter. This two-ball affair was hard to justify. He carved his first ball, from Bhuvneshwar, behind point for four, sought a repeat against his next ball and edged to Dhawan at slip.
Anderson's reverse sweep against his off-field adversary, Ravindra Jadeja, ended England's innings as it flew off a glove to first slip. Anderson dashed off for a rub down, just as well as it meant he did not catch sight of Jadeja's smile. The odds - perhaps 55:45 in India's favour - suggested Jadeja may be smiling again by Monday.
David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo