LONDON: Jonny Bairstow led England's rearguard on the fourth morning at the Kia Oval, batting with intent and determination to reach 70 not out from 94 balls, but two big wickets in the course of the morning session meant that Pakistan, still leading by 20 runs, went to lunch needing four more wickets to set up a series-squaring victory in the fourth Test.

For the best part of an hour, while Moeen Ali was bedding in alongside Bairstow in a brisk 65-run stand for the sixth wicket, England were able to revive some timely memories of the match-turning alliance that the same pair had produced from a similarly dicey position in the third Test at Edgbaston.

However, with five minutes to go until the interval, Yasir Shah popped up with the vital scalp of Moeen for 32, to add to Sohail Khan's earlier extraction of Gary Ballance for 17 and leave England's fortunes hanging by the slenderest of threads. Bairstow and Chris Woakes have the calibre to carve out a lead of some description, but Pakistan's determination to secure a share of the series has been palpable throughout this contest. It would be an astonishing turnaround from here.

In spite of their precarious situation, England batted with confidence from the outset, with Bairstow especially belligerent as he resolved to play his natural attacking game. After taking a handful of overs to find his range, he laid into a slightly subdued Pakistan attack with three rifled drives for four off Amir and Wahab Riaz, whose fierce initial pace was tempered when Bruce Oxenford handed him his second warning for following through down the pitch. One more transgression and he will be removed from the attack.

It was the less ferocious wiles of Sohail that finally prised the opening, as Ballance - who had been lining up the left-armers with confidence as they angled the ball back into his pads - found the right-armer's seam and swing less easy to comprehend. Sohail's fourth delivery of the morning was a triumph of line and length, as he pitched the ball on the left-hander's off stump, found a modicum of movement off the seam and some steepling extra bounce to take the edge and climb through to Sarfraz Ahmed.

Moeen, coming off the back of a brilliant first-innings hundred, immediately got off the mark with a flicked four off the pads and he too resolved to remain as fluent as possible as England sought to chisel away at their deficit.

Yasir, whose confidence appeared to have been restored by his three-wicket burst on the third evening, struggled at first for the same impact and Moeen cashed in with a yawning straight six over long-on. But, having begun to find a decent rhythm from around the wicket as he targeted the rough outside the left-hander's off stump, Yasir claimed the big breakthrough with the one that went straight on. Anticipating the spin, Moeen was instead suckered by extra bounce, and Sarfraz behind the stumps took a sharp edge with a hint of a juggle.

Bairstow remained unmoved, and in the course of his innings, he became only the second player, after VVS Laxman in 2002, to score 900-plus runs in a year batting at No. 6 or lower. But he will need to take that tally considerably closer to 1000 to give England a chance in this contest.