England let India back into it in Fourth Test as Rohit Sharma smashes first overseas century at The Oval
OLLIE ROBINSON provided a single over of joy and celebration but this was a bad day for England.
So bad, in fact, that an apparently winning position in the Fourth Test had been turned into a precarious situation by the close of day three.
Indian opener Rohit Sharma made his first overseas Test century and found staunch allies in K.L.Rahul and Cheteshwar Pujara.
Robinson dismissed both Rohit and Pujara in the opening over with the second new ball but England’s only other success was the removal of Rahul before lunch.
It meant that when bad light stopped play 50 minutes early, India had reached 270-3 and turned a first innings deficit of 99 into a lead of 171 runs.
With Virat Kohli 22 not out, India will be looking for an advantage of way beyond 300 on Sunday and the chance to apply huge pressure to England’s second innings.
Rohit and Pujara were largely untroubled during their second-wicket partnership of 153 so it came as a big surprise when both departed.
Robinson’s first delivery with the second cherry was a short long hop, a real loosener. But Rohit somehow contrived to spoon it all the way to Chris Woakes at long leg.
Then Pujara edged the final delivery of the same over onto his back thigh pad and the ball lobbed to Moeen Ali at third slip. Umpire Richard Illingworth initially gave Pujara not out but a review confirmed the edge.
Rohit and Pujara had been in such control that India became the first visiting team to reach 200 having lost just one wicket in a Test in this country since the Aussies in 2015.
Jimmy Anderson, Robinson and Woakes bowled okay but the pitch – so tricky when Joe Root chose to field on the day one – had flattened into a batter’s dream.
You could say 39-year-old Anderson and the still inexperienced Robinson were low on energy after back-to-back Tests and Woakes was short of cricket following his injury, but they were not obviously struggling. There was just hardly any lateral movement.
Craig Overton and Moeen, who dropped too short too often, performed less well.
England – and Rory Burns, in particular – will be rueing a couple of dropped catches that reprieved Rohit.
Burns failed to grasp an edge off Anderson on Friday evening when Rohit had scored six and Burns was the culprit again when he could not hold a right-handed chance off Robinson with Rohit on 31.
They were both massive moments in the game.
Rohit is one of the game’s best all-format players. He has three double centuries in one-day internationals and captains the all-conquering Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League.
But his Test career has been stop-start, frequently dropped or shuffled up and down the order. It is only in recent times that Rohit has established himself as India’s regular opener.
None of his previous seven Test centuries had been scored outside India. So this was a breakthrough innings.
Rohit is a delight to watch, too. He appears to have so much time to play his shots and he is the very definition of elegance and style.
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Even when Rohit reached his century with a huge six off Moeen that sailed over long-on and into the pavilion, there was no sign of violence in the shot.
Rahul was given out lbw to Woakes for 41 – the ball after he hooked him for six – but it was a poor decision by umpire Alex Wharf. Replays showed the ball clearly missing leg stump.
Rahul might have survived that review – but the technology did for him on 46.
He was given not out caught behind off Anderson but DRS showed a spike as the ball passed his outside edge.
Rahul pleaded with the umpires that he had not touched the ball and the spike was not of the sharply pointed variety that proves the sound of leather on willow – but the batsman had to go.
Pujara needed heavy strapping and a six-minute delay after he twisted his left ankle. But it didn’t cause him many problems.
He continued his sequence of scoring the bulk of his runs in this series in India’s second innings. Pujara played several of his favourite cut shots and the occasional drive down the ground from Moeen’s off-spin.
After Rohit and Pujara were dismissed in the same Robinson over, Kohli and Ravi Jadeja added 33 before the umpires ruled it was too dark for quick bowling.
Root bowled a couple of overs of himself and Moeen but then tried to bowl Woakes – with the inevitable result that play was halted.
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