NOTTINGHAM, England (Reuters) – Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes provided some badly needed stability for England in the third test against India with a century partnership as they recovered to 173 for four on the fourth day.
India, though, have plenty of time to pick up the six wickets needed for victory and no shortage of runs to play with as England face an improbable target of 521.
England lead the five-test series 2-0 but the final two matches could now be real battles if, as expected, India finish off the task to pull one game back.
The first wicketless session of the series brought some cheer to home supporters at Trent Bridge after England’s top order crumbled to 84 for four at lunch.
India’s seamers bowled with controlled aggression and intelligence and were helped by excellent catching and awful shot-selection from England.
Keaton Jennings went in the first over, the left-hander poking at a short, rising delivery from Ishant Sharma and wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant comfortably snaffled up the chance.
Two overs later and Ishant was celebrating the removal of England’s other opener Alastair Cook who edged to Lokesh Rahul at second slip.
England badly needed a gritty innings from one of their top order but their biggest hope disappeared when captain Joe Root departed for 13 when his thick edge off Jaspit Bumrah brilliantly caught by Rahul.
Ollie Pope showed his inexperience with a poor shot, following a wide delivery outside off stump and finding a diving Virat Kohli at third slip.
It could have been even worse for England but Buttler was dropped by Pant off Bumrah.
Having been given that reprieve, Buttler showed the kind of patient application that had been sorely missed from the upper order batsmen.
The pair put on 111 runs with Buttler on 67 at tea and Stokes progressing to 42.
(Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Ed Osmond)