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India 294 for 7 (Pant 101, Sundar 60*, Anderson 3-40) lead England 205 by 89 runs
A day of two halves in Ahmedabad saw India seize control of the fourth Test, as an innings of two halves from Rishabh Pant cut England down to size. Pant's maiden hundred on home soil was a masterpiece of adapting his game to the demands of conditions and match situation, and by the time he had flamed out, English hopes of hanging in the game had largely gone up in smoke.
Seeking the sort of first-innings runs that would define the contest, India had stuttered and stumbled to 146 for 6 during the afternoon session, as England succeeded in their attempts to control the run rate while making regular incisions. Ben Stokes, who hurled himself through 20 overs in the day for the wickets of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, and James Anderson set the tone from the outset as Joe Root shuffled his hand adroitly in defence of his side's mediocre efforts with the bat.
But the struggles of Dom Bess left England's four-man attack stretched, as a century stand between Pant and Washington Sundar wrested back control. Initially, runs came in circumspect fashion as India sought to rebuild, and had Bess been granted an lbw decision when Pant had 35 - umpire Nitin Menon's not-out call was upheld by the narrowest of margins on DRS - things could have taken a wholly different course. As it was, Pant took the game into his own hands.
A watchful half-century from 82 balls provided the kindling for Pant to ignite against a toiling opposition late in the day. Sparks flew and runs flowed, England's plans to bowl dry blown clean out of the water on a parched late Gujarati afternoon, as Pant raced on to his hundred in the space of another 33 deliveries. He fell moments later, but Sundar carried on the good work until the close to leave India in sight of 300 and a potentially decisive lead.
For a while, with India six down and the game in the balance, it was tempting to wonder how much Kohli really did care about the World Test Championship final. Defeat here would cost India their spot, and the captain was one of three wickets to fall - for his second duck of the series - during a morning session which yielded just 56 runs. The dismissal of Rohit one short of fifty then left India in need of some lower-order gumption to keep England at bay.
But on a pitch that has been tougher to master than had initially seemed apparent, Pant soared above the competition. If the surface was two-paced, so was Pant's innings. His control of the situation was evident in the way he kicked up through the gears around the arrival of the new ball - a juncture that might have brought England some relief, with Root increasingly reluctant to turn to Bess' offspin - as back-to-back boundaries off Stokes put India level on the scoreboard.
Further audacity was to come. Anderson, new ball in hand, was greeted by being pumped for fours through mid-off and cover, before the sucker punch: an insouciant reverse-scoop over the slips that even forced a wry grimace from England's 38-year-old attack leader. His hundred was reached soon after with a slog-swept six off Root, to the delight of a vocal Motera crowd; after steadfastly laying the foundations, this was back to seat-of-the-Pant batting as advertised.
Although Anderson eventually scragged the youngster for 101, caught hammering a pull to midwicket, the scales had shifted. Sundar brought up his third Test fifty with a back-foot flay through the off side that typified his own increasingly assured innings, and 141 runs bled through the final session to leave England facing a battle for survival in the third innings.
Anderson's figures told a story in themselves. He began the day having not conceded a run, and had figures of 17-11-19-2 before the late carnage; of the seven boundaries he conceded, five came via Pant's bat. But Anderson and Stokes had to share a heavy workload, as Bess failed to hit his lengths once again, all too often contributing to releasing the pressure that England had striven to build up. Even when Bess did belatedly win an lbw decision against Sundar in the penultimate over of the day, it was overturned on review.
England's hopes of limiting India to a score somewhere in the region of 200 had initially been lifted after a disciplined morning session. Jack Leach struck first, sliding a delivery into Cheteshwar Pujara's front pad fractionally before his bat came through in defence, before Kohli was extracted via a Stokes bouncer and a feathered edge to the keeper.
Anderson accounted for Ajinkya Rahane with the final ball before lunch and although Rohit again looked in ominous touch, a marginal lbw decision buoyed Stokes and England further. When R Ashwin chipped tamely to midwicket for Leach's second wicket, the hosts seemed to be on the ropes, only for Pant's innings and his mature partnership with Sundar to give them control of the ring.
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