Opener KL Rahul scored a defiant century to hold up England’s victory charge as India reached 167-5 at lunch on the final day of the fifth test at the Oval on Tuesday.
England need five more wickets to complete a 4-1 series win.
Rahul, whose struggle for runs has undermined India throughout the series, took his overnight 46 to 108 not with some dazzling boundaries to illuminate a murky morning.
India began the day on 58-3 chasing an improbable victory target of 464, with England requiring seven more wickets to win.
Rahul and Ajinkya Rahane survived an early burst from James Anderson who was hunting for the one wicket he requires to move ahead of Australian great Glenn McGrath as the leading paceman wicket-taker in test history.
The 26-year-old Rahul brought up his first 50 of the series when he turned Anderson off his legs for a boundary in the first over of the day, and he grew in confidence from there on.
On a subdued day after the excitement of England opener Alastair Cook’s farewell test century on Monday, Rahul looked in complete control, although Sam Curran did beat his outside edge on occasions.
His partnership with Rahane looked secure and was worth 118 when Moeen Ali made the breakthrough to have Rahane caught at mid-wicket for 37 after mistiming a sweep shot.
When Ben Stokes lured Hanuma Vihari into edging behind for a duck in the next over it looked bleak for India. But Rahul went back on the attack to reach three figures with a flurry of boundaries off Stokes, including a six over deep extra cover.
His fifth test century, taken off 118 deliveries, came up when he flat-batted a wide Stokes delivery for four — drawing a warm reception from the sparce Oval crowd.
Young wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant followed Rahul’s example with a six off Moeen just before the lunch interval.