James Anderson became the most successful fast bowler in Test history when he sealed England’s 118-run win over India at the Oval on Tuesday.
With just one wicket to fall, and Anderson needing one more to break the record of 563 he had shared with retired Australia great Glenn McGrath, the 36-year-old Lancashire paceman bowled Mohammed Shami to give England victory in the fifth Test and a 4-1 series win.
India, set a mammoth 464 to win, collapsed to two for three on Monday, with Anderson striking twice.
But a sixth-wicket partnership of 204 between KL Rahul (149) and Rishabh Pant (114) on Tuesday gave them hope of an unlikely victory.
Leg-spinner Adil Rashid, however, removed both century-makers in a burst of two wickets for three runs in two overs after tea to leave India struggling at 328 for seven.
The scale of India’s task could be seen from the fact that no side have made more in the fourth innings to win a Test than the West Indies’ 418 for seven against Australia at St John’s, Antigua in 2002/03.
India resumed Tuesday on 58 for three. Rahul was 46 not out and Ajinkya Rahane unbeaten on 10.
All eyes were on Anderson as he bowled Tuesday’s first over, with the overcast conditions seemingly in his favour.
Rahul, Pant turn on the style
Rahul though clipped his sixth delivery of the day legside for four to complete a fifty — the first by an India opening batsman this series.
But a stand of 118 ended when Rahane (37) miscued a sweep off Moeen Ali to Keaton Jennings at midwicket.
India’s 120 for four was soon transformed into 121 for five when Ben Stokes had Test debutant Hanuma Vihari, who made 56 in India’s first innings, caught behind for a duck.
But Rahul slapped Stokes over extra-cover for six to go into the 90s in extraordinary fashion before his top-edged pull for four off the all-rounder took him to 97.
The 26-year-old Rahul then pulled the paceman through mid-off, another remarkable boundary, to complete his fifth hundred in 29 Tests off 118 balls including 16 fours and a six.
At lunch he was 108 not out in a total of 167 for five.
Left-hander Pant, who had hit off-spinner Ali for a one-handed six before lunch, gave Rahul superb support on an increasingly flat pitch as runs flowed freely.
Anderson came back on for a second spell but could not break through, with England captain Joe Root’s occasional off-spin also failing to yield a wicket.
Wicket-keeper Pant, who hoisted Rashid for six to go into the 90s, went to his maiden Test hundred in just his third match at this level when he repeated the shot off the Yorkshireman, the ball soaring high over long-on.
The 20-year-old had then faced a mere 117 balls, including 14 fours and three sixes.
At tea, India were 298 for five, needing 166 more runs to win.
But Rashid, a peripheral figure for much of the series, then took centre stage.
He turned one sharply out of the rough outside Rahul’s leg-stump to clip the top of the right-hander’s off-stump.
And his next over saw Pant, going for another big hit, hole out to Ali at long-off.
Anderson was denied the wicket he craved when diving wicket-keeper Jonny Bairstow dropped a low left-handed chance to reprieve Ravindra Jadeja.
But Sam Curran struck twice with the new ball when the left-arm paceman had both Ishant Sharma and Jadeja caught behind to leave India on the brink of defeat at 345 for nine.
Anderson then gave England the finish they wanted, bowling Shami middle stump.
England started Tuesday in a commanding position after Alastair Cook, their all-time leading run-scorer, had marked his last Test before international retirement with 147 in a total of 423 for eight declared on Monday that also included Root’s 125.