Ollie Pope made a magnificent century, his best innings for England, to keep the tourists alive after three days of the first Test against India in Hyderabad.
Pope’s epic 148 not out dragged England to 316-6 in their second innings, 126 ahead and with hope of pulling off a famous win.
The vice-captain received brilliant support from Ben Foakes, who made 34 in a sixth-wicket stand of 112 that first ensured England were not beaten with two days to spare, then built a handy lead.
Though Foakes was bowled by Axar Patel, Rehan Ahmed survived to the close on 16 not out. Perhaps crucially, Pope was dropped on 110 and will return on Sunday with the opportunity to set India a testing target.
All of this after Jasprit Bumrah’s scintillating spell of reverse-swing bowling helped reduce England to 163-5 and in danger of wasting a good start to the day.
India managed only 15 runs in the morning session, bowled out for 436, with Joe Root taking two wickets in two balls to end with 4-79. Overall, the hosts lost their last three wickets for no runs but still had a lead of 190.
If England are to achieve something remarkable, they may have to hope for an improvement in the condition of leading spinner Jack Leach, who had his left leg heavily strapped and was able to bowl only one over.
England could still lose this Test by a wide margin, but this was their best day of the contest, much improved from the slog of day two and certainly giving some encouragement for the rest of the series.
The tourists did well to limit India from their overnight 421-7. Root got Ravindra Jadeja and Bumrah in successive deliveries, while Ahmed bowled Axar for 44 in the next over.
But it is with the bat where England showed real grit, with all of the top three going some way to answering the questions that hang over them in this part of the world.
Ben Duckett survived Ravichandran Ashwin for the first time in his Test career on the way to 47 and Zak Crawley, with such a poor record against spin in Asia, made an attractive 31.
They were outshone by Pope, who made one of the great hundreds by a batter visiting this country, especially given the quality of the attack, the conditions, match situation and the fact this is his first Test since June following shoulder surgery.
It is still a huge ask for England to get anything from this Test.The pitch seems to have lost pace and bite, so defending anything other than a sizeable target will be difficult for England’s inexperienced attack against India’s powerful batting. But England have a chance, which is more than the had at the beginning of the day.