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A sold-out fifth-day crowd — with both sides well supported — piled into the Kia Oval on Monday morning to see if England could knock off a further 291 runs to take a 2-1 lead over India with one match of an outstanding series remaining.
England bowled India out for 191 on the opening day and established a 99-run first-innings lead, only for India — now the favourites — to fight back brilliantly, setting up an exciting conclusion.
The only cloud is a Covid-19 scare in the India camp. Yesterday, India cricket’s governing body announced that their influential head coach, Ravi Shastri, had returned a positive lateral flow test and, along with three other members of support staff, had remained at the team hotel.
The Daily Mail reported this morning that last Tuesday, Shastri and other members of the Indian camp had attended a book launch, mixing with members of the public. The ECB did not give dispensation for the outing and have been left unimpressed by the situation. The entire Indian camp underwent PCR testing this morning and Shastri and his fellow isolators did not travel to the ground. Results of the testing are yet to be announced.
Chasing a mammoth 368 — which would be their record Test chase, overtaking Ben Stokes’s Headingley heist of 2019 — Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed made it through 32 overs last night to reach stumps on 77 without loss. The weather was set fair this morning, with blue skies, little wind and temperatures expected to hit 27 degrees.
“We’re definitely going to give it a crack,” England batter Ollie Pope told the BBC. “Monday, packed house with the sun out. It’s incredibly exciting. These days are exactly what we play for.”