Shardul Thakur hit the fastest Test fifty in England, in terms of balls faced, before India were dismissed for 191 at the Oval on Thursday. The recalled all-rounder, who had not played since suffering a hamstring injury during the drawn series opener at Trent Bridge, came in with India in dire straits at 117-6 after losing the toss on the opening day of the fourth Test. But Thakur, in just his fourth match at this level, responded with a superb display of clean hitting that saw him go to fifty in just 31 balls, including six fours and three sixes, before he was eventually lbw for 57 to opposing all-rounder Chris Woakes. Thakur’s half-century surpassed England great Ian Botham’s 32-ball fifty against New Zealand, also at the Oval, in 1986 as the quickest in a Test in England. India captain Virat Kohli, who made exactly 50, was the only other batsman to pass 17 in the innings after England skipper Joe Root won the toss. Woakes, playing his first Test in over a year because of injuries and Covid complications, took 4-55 in 15 overs. But the Warwickshire paceman, who replaced left-arm swing bowler Sam Curran, would have had even better figures had not two catches been dropped off his bowling. This five-match series is level at 1-1 after England’s innings and 76-run victory in the third Test at Headingley last week.