Rohit Sharma produced an impressive, long-awaited knock of 127 as India left England up against it on day three of the fourth Test at the Oval.
Prior to this innings, all seven of Rohit’s Test centuries had come in home conditions but he anchored a superb comeback for the tourists. When he opened the innings on the second evening, his side were 99 behind. As he walked off for tea at 103 not out on Saturday, they were an even hundred in front on 199 for one.
Rory Burns would have felt every run like a dagger having dropped Rohit in the slips on four and 31, but he cannot bear the sole burden for England’s inability to take more than one wicket in two full sessions before Ollie Robinson took two wickets after tea.
KL Rahul was the first man to go, feathering James Anderson behind for 46 despite his own apparent refusal to believe he had nicked it, with Cheteshwar Pujara picking up the baton on 48 not out. Both teams performed well in an enjoyable tussle of a morning session, India turning a 56-run overnight deficit into a nine-run lead.
England bowled well for long periods despite modest amounts of swing and seam, with Chris Woakes particularly challenging. When he saw a rare drag down to Rahul disappear for six over fine-leg, the very next delivery won him an lbw decision which was struck down on review.
When Robinson finally generated a chance, squaring up Rohit slightly and earning a thick edge, it went begging. It would have been a simple catch at third slip, but without one, Burns was forced to leap one-handed and could only parry the ball. It was England’s sixth drop of the game.
Anderson eventually gave something to show for their hard work, returning for a second spell and racing off in celebration after going past Rahul’s outside edge. Umpire Alex Wharf was unmoved and Rahul himself appeared to suggest any sound had been bat to pad, but the DRS review went in Anderson’s favour.
Rohit had been quiet, starting with a sweet on-drive in the first over of the day, adding just 25 runs in the session to sit on 47 at the break. The afternoon play saw India and Rohit make their move. Having reached his 50 in 145 balls, Rohit needed only 59 more to convert it into a century.
The batsman did much of his best work off Moeen Ali’s spin, slapping him uppishly through the offside before stooping into a couple of hard-hit sweeps. He eased through the nineties with two scoring shots, whipping Anderson from outside-off to the mid-wicket ropes then reaching his ton with a maximum.
Pujara had been a perfect foil, shaking off his careful reputation as he scored at a breezy rate. Joe Root wasted a review on a spurious bat-pad appeal, having earlier lost another trying to prise Rohit out lbw offering no shot.
England ended the afternoon session short on ideas, low on energy and in danger of slipping deep into a hole but got a break with the second new ball, as Rohit sent a Robinson delivery straight to Chris Woakes at the boundary.
Pujara went in the same over for 61 after edging Robinson through to Moeen, before bad light brought an early close with India in the ascendancy, leading by 171 runs