England v India Test - Men's
All eyes on Cook after India stand firm
Retiring opener to resume on 46 on day four after Ravindra Jadeja led an Indian fightback on Sunday
10 September 2018, 07:29 AM AEST
Alastair Cook can dream of a 33rd Test century in the final innings of his record-breaking career after steering England to stumps against India at The Oval.
Cook was unbeaten on 46 in a total of 2-114 as England extended their overall lead to 154 after bowling India out for 292 on Sunday.
Should Cook complete the fairytale finish and reach three figures on Monday, he will become just the fifth man and the first since 2000 to post a century in his first and last Test.
Home advantage on day three would have been still more substantial without the revival engineered by India's charismatic allrounder Ravindra Jadeja (86 not out) and Hanuma Vihari (56).
The tourists resumed on 6-174 and appeared sure to trail significantly until the seventh-wicket pair took their stand to 77, and 132 were added in all for the last four to fall.
As Cook then set out to consolidate, he was cheered and clapped to the middle by his fourth standing ovation of the week.
He soon lost his opening partner Keaton Jennings, who shouldered arms to Mohammed Shami and lost his off bail.
It was an unedifying end to Jennings' largely disappointing Test summer with the bat, especially after he had earlier dropped the catch at short-leg which reprieved India No.11 Jasprit Bumrah and cost England 32 runs.
Cook spent 26 balls stuck on 13 either side of tea.
But he uncovered occasional fluency, in an unbroken 50 stand with captain Joe Root after Jadeja had spun one through the gate to bowl Moeen Ali, and there were no major alarms to the close.
As has been the curious case throughout this match so far, bat dominated ball before lunch, thanks to Jadeja and Vihari this time.
James Anderson, still three wickets short of overhauling Australia great Glenn McGrath's world record of 563 for any pace bowler, drew a blank alongside Stuart Broad.
Debutant Vihari completed his half-century from 104 balls. It took Jadeja nine deliveries more and into the afternoon before he cut Moeen for his seventh boundary to reach the same milestone.
Vihari's dismissal, caught behind pushing up the line as Mooen's arm ball drifted across him, was the only one before lunch.
Ishant Sharma went in a near action replay to Moeen in early afternoon, and then Shami got greedy against Adil Rashid and holed out at long-on.
Jadeja would have been left stranded and the score on 260 all out if Jennings had held a sharp catch off bat and pad when Rashid's googly was too much for Bumrah.
But he did not and Jadeja cashed in as the buccaneering presence in a last-wicket stand.
As Root's field placings and bowling changes sent out mixed messages, Bumrah faced only 14 out of 54 deliveries and Jadeja memorably smashed the second new ball straight back over Anderson's head for six.
India's fun, and England's frustration, finally ended when Bumrah was run out chancing a tight single.
Then, of course, it was over to Cook - one last time.