India and England served up yet another day of the most engrossing cricket to leave the first Test poised on a knife edge at Edgbaston.
Ishant Sharma claimed five for 51 in a breathless afternoon spell — his last Test five-wicket haul came nearly three years ago — as England lurched to 180 all out, setting India 194 for victory.
On a tricky surface, under cloudy skies, such a pursuit was never going to be easy. India threatened to make a mess of it on Friday before Virat Kohli was left fighting the fire yet again. At stumps on the third day, the touring side was 110 for five, Kohli unbeaten on 43 with Dinesh Karthik for company.
Not long after he had walked out, Murali Vijay was put down on one — David Malan the guilty party again — but Stuart Broad soon pinned him leg-before. Broad is very much a 'rhythm' bowler, someone who thrives when he is in the mood. With a loud, boozy Hollies Stand cheering him on, he ran in full of purpose.
Shikhar Dhawan, whose future as a Test opener in these conditions must be called into question, wafted at the ball and was caught behind. K.L. Rahul did not fare much better, succumbing to a beautiful delivery from Ben Stokes.
Ajinkya Rahane reached out to one Sam Curran had pushed across him, and departed for two. R. Ashwin, promoted up to six here, caressed a couple through the covers but received a ball from James Anderson that would have consumed batsmen of far greater reputation.
For two-thirds of the day, though, India had been decisively on top. In the morning, Ashwin picked up from where he had left off on Thursday, snaring Keaton Jennings a quarter of an hour in. He is not a bowler left-hand batsmen relish facing.
Joe Root seemed to be dealing with Ashwin all right until he clipped an off-break off his pads and was caught expertly by Rahul at leg-slip. Malan — he of the dropped catches — seemed miserable during his time at the crease. Ishant approached him from around the wicket, angling the ball in and having it move away. Malan was squared up time and again before a meek push took the edge; Rahane swallowed the chance in the gully.
This was the start of an extraordinary burst from Ishant, a period of 17 balls — split by the lunch break — in which he grabbed four wickets.
Jonny Bairstow, who had shown an inclination to attack, was his second victim, Dhawan holding a good, low catch at first slip. Ben Stokes arrived and Kohli joined the cordon, stationing himself at third slip. Two balls later an edge flew the captain's way and Stokes was gone without scoring. Lunch was called with England rattled. India's catching had been impeccable.
Ishant had two balls left in an over that had yielded two wickets already and he struck a third time, forcing an out-of-sorts Jos Buttler to poke behind. England was seven down with the lead at 100 and suddenly India could sniff a genuine shot at victory.
Young Sam Curran, though, would not be cowed. In the County Championship, he is regarded as a better batsman than a bowler, and he proved his credentials as an all-rounder here. He went after India's bowlers, slashing and driving, living dangerously but living. A maiden half-century was raised with a carefree six over extra-cover off Ishant; if he had been the afternoon's most dangerous bowler, Curran hadn't got the memo.
Frustratingly for India, the eighth and ninth-wicket partnerships — with Curran in the company of Adil Rashid and Stuart Broad — realized 89 runs as England's lead suddenly swelled.
Ishant removed Broad eventually to claim his eighth five-wicket haul and when Umesh got rid of Curran for 65, it left India facing a target under 200.
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