Classy Rohit Sharma's overdue century gives India advantage over England in Oval Test

Visitors erase 99-run deficit and build an imposing lead in fourth Test at The Oval

Rohit Sharma posted his first overseas Test ton for India, before falling to the first delivery of the second new ball to revive England’s hopes in the fourth Test at the Oval.

The fact Rohit is playing his 43rd Test, the majority of them being away games, and had still yet to reach three figures on foreign soil had seemed peculiar.

He is, after all, India’s highest-ranked Test batsman, arguably the greatest ever one-day opener, and the captain of the most successful IPL franchise in T20.

The statistical quirk has been erased, though, after his masterful effort of 127 subdued the England bowlers over the course of a 256-ball stay at the wicket.

Rohit has won plaudits during this series for his self-restraint. He was at it again in this innings, as he calmly set about redressing the balance after England led by 99 on first innings.

He was the junior partner in stands worth 83 for the first wicket with KL Rahul, then 153 for the second with Cheteshwar Pujara for the second.

There was little fuss, but plenty of elegance about the way he knitted together his innings, and he did allow himself one flourish when the century was within his grasp.

Having barely struck a shot with any sort of viciousness, he stepped out down the wicket to Moeen Ali, and lofted the England off-spinner into the second tier of the old pavilion.

So untroubled was he, the nature of his dismissal came as a shock. He and Pujara had taken India through to the second new ball and into a position of power, on 236-1.

Ollie Robinson sent down a loose, long hop with the first delivery after the new ball had been delivered onto the field.

Rohit’s cross-batted swat at it was a weak imitation of his trademark pull shot, and all he succeeded in doing was top edging to Chris Woakes at fine leg.

The mistake was exacerbated later in the over when Pujara followed him back to the dressing room.

He was initially reprieved, only for the Decision Review System to show that he had inside-edged a lifting delivery from Robinson onto his back thigh, which then ballooned into the hands of Moeen at gully.

Having been becalmed by the imperturbable batting of Rohit, Rahul and Pujara until that over, the Oval crowd was now roaring.

Not least because they now had the prospect of Virat Kohli versus Robinson, his new nemesis, and James Anderson, his old one.

Kohli himself has been uncharacteristically light on centuries just lately, too. He survived till the close, despite a few scrapes at the hands of Robinson, and will get the chance to go for that elusive ton on day four.

If he does manage it, India will be in a formidable position to set about forcing a win. At the end of day three, they closed with a lead of 171 with seven wickets still left to play with.

Updated: September 4th 2021, 5:25 PM
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