Karun Nair struck a triple century to send India to their highest Test score of 759-7 declared and the highest amassed by any team against England.
Nair, playing in his third Test, made 303 not out to become only the second India batsman to make a triple century.
His effort on day four of the fifth Test in Chennai left England needing to bat out the final day to avoid defeat.
The tourists, who have already lost the series, survived five overs to close on 12-0, still 270 behind.
Their task on Tuesday should be helped be a surface that remains docile, but India’s skilful spinners are likely to extract much greater assistance than England’s.
Not only do England face an examination of their technique, but also their mentality, determination and attitude on the final day of a gruelling tour.
“They’ve been flogged around, but that’s not the most difficult pitch to bat on,” said former England batsman Geoffrey Boycott on Test Match Special. “There’s just scoreboard pressure, and the pressure of their minds.
“The key will be the first session. Every time a new batsman comes in, India will pressurise them – and it’s really only your own fault if you get out.”
Nair grows into huge knock
Nair, resuming on 71 of India’s 391-4 overnight, initially continued with the uncertainty he showed on the fourth evening, edging Stuart Broad over the slips and struggling against the pace and bounce of Ben Stokes.
But after he reached his maiden century, the 25-year-old right-hander began to sparkle. Whereas the bulk of his first hundred runs were scored square of the wicket, Nair expanded into cover drives, sweeps of all kinds and audacious ramps over wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow.
Dropped at slip by captain Alastair Cook on 34 off Jake Ball on Sunday, he was given an almost identical life by Joe Root off the same bowler on 217 and survived a stumping chance to Bairstow off Moeen Ali on 246.
He shared partnerships of 181 with Ravichandran Ashwin (67) and 138 with Ravindra Jadeja (51), the latter coming in a raucous late-evening charge towards his 300.
Three of his four sixes came after he passed 200, the third century was made in only 75 balls and completed with a cut for four off Adil Rashid that was celebrated by a delirious Chennai crowd.
‘The best knock of my life’
India triple centurion Karun Nair: “That’s the best knock of my life. I had to play differently depending on who was batting. They kept encouraging me and I want to thank them.
“The first hundred is always important and when I got that I didn’t feel any pressure and just played my shots.
“The pitch is getting worse and for a new batsmen it won’t be easy to play. Hopefully it will turn more tomorrow.”
West Indies’ Chris Gayle has made two Test triple centuries while Virender Sehwag was previously the only India batsman to make a Test 300
England chase leather in Chennai
England’s efforts never dropped over 191 overs, but their attack was eventually rendered ineffective by an India batting performance that put the tourists’ first-innings score of 477 into context.
Broad and Stokes probed in the morning, while debutant Liam Dawson, theoretically England’s third spinner, bowed tidily throughout the first session and trapped Murali Vijay lbw for his first Test wicket.
However, India upped the ante after lunch, with England’s first-choice spinners Moeen and Rashid unable to offer control – they bowled two maidens in 71 overs between them – and paceman Ball occasionally losing his length.
England can point to some misfortune – Nair could have been given out caught behind to a reverse-sweep off Rashid on 154 and Jennings could have had Ashwin lbw with the first ball he bowled, but no reviews remained.
By the end, though, it was carnage. Fielders were scattered, wickets were hoped for rather than expected and the bowlers’ only purpose was to serve deliveries that Nair hammered to the boundary.
‘They flogged England to death’ – analysis by Former England batsman Geoffrey Boycott
India just flogged England to death in the evening session. They couldn’t stem the flow in any way, that’s the sad part. They had six men on the boundary and they still smashed boundaries, it was pure mayhem.
The best two bowlers for me were Jennings, who came on as an occasional bowler, and Ben Stokes. They gave it their best shot.
You’ve got to say well played India, they scored even more runs than people expected. Cook’s dropped catch yesterday was difficult, it flashed and went high and wide. Root’s today, when Karun Nair already had 217, was a much easier chance. It was the afternoon session when it started to get away from England.
England’s rearguard begins
Though England’s suffering in the field was prolonged, the extra time India allowed for Nair to reach his milestone shortened the amount of overs the tourists had to survive with the bat.
Openers Cook and Jennings were given a taste of what is to come on Tuesday – spinners Ashwin and Jadeja bowled all but one of the overs – but came through without alarm.
England’s final-day quest for a draw will not be witnessed by coach Trevor Bayliss, who is travelling to his home country of Australia for treatment on a hernia.
In his absence, they will look to avoid losing four Tests in a series against India for the first time.
‘It was one of those days’
England coach Trevor Bayliss: “India played extremely well and you put it down to one of those days and just hope it doesn’t happen too often. Alastair tried everything but you have to bowl to the fields and once India got in it was a fantastic innings.
“It’s a difficult day for everyone in the changing room but they will come out tomorrow and it will be a test of their character.
“I’m sure we made some mistakes, we’ve played some decent cricket but not as good as the India team, who haven’t let us into the game.”