LONDON: Virat Kohli's brisk 44 strengthened India's grip on the fourth Test against England at the Oval on Sunday. India were 329-6 in their second innings at lunch on the fourth day, a lead of 230 runs, with the five-match series all square at 1-1.
Chris Woakes continued his excellent England comeback by taking 2-0 in nine balls before off-spinner Moeen Ali captured the prize wicket of India captain Kohli. Rishabh Pant was 16 not out and fit again all-rounder Shardul Thakur unbeaten on 11.
Significantly, there have only been five successful fourth innings chases of more than 200 at the Oval in Test cricket, with England's 263-9 against Australia way back in 1902 the highest and the hosts' 205-2 against South Africa in 1994 the most recent. India resumed on 270-3, already 171 runs ahead.
Rohit Sharma had led the way with 127, his first overseas Test century, and together with Cheteshwar Pujara (61) he frustrated England during a second-wicket partnership of 153 - although it would have been a different story had not Sharma been missed twice in the slips.
Both batsmen had fallen to Ollie Robinson in the first over with the new ball before bad light ended Saturday's play. Kohli, without a Test hundred in nearly two years, was 22 not out and Ravindra Jadeja unbeaten on nine.
Although second new ball was then still only 12 overs old, it was not long before Kohli cover-drove England great James Anderson for four before a drive off Robinson sped to the boundary. But Warwickshire all-rounder Woakes, who had already marked his first Test in more than a year with first-innings contributions of 4-55 and 50, reduced India to 296-5.
The paceman struck with just his second ball of the day when he had left-hander Jadeja lbw for 17. Jadeja had been promoted ahead of Ajinkya Rahane who was almost out for a third-ball duck when, in the same over, he was given out lbw to Woakes after not playing a shot before the decision was overturned on review for height
But Woakes had Rahane lbw for an eight-ball nought, playing across the line and the India vice-captain was so clearly out this time there was no review. India, however, were 197 runs ahead on a sunny day seemingly ideal for batting - something Kohli proved again with a dismissive cover-driven four off Craig Overton.
Moeen, however, succeeded where England's quicks had failed when, in his first over of the Sunday, he had Kohli edging to Overton at slip. Kohli, whose last Test hundred was his 136 against Bangladesh at Kolkata in November 2019, has now gone 21 innings without hundred at this level - the longest such drought of the star batsman's career.
Meanwhile, it was announced before play that India head coach Ravi Shastri had been forced to remain in the team hotel after testing positive for Covid-19 late Saturday, with bowling coach Bharat Arun, fielding coach Ramakrishnan Sridhar and physiotherapist Nitin Patel all isolating as a "precautionary measure".