4th Test: India 171 runs ahead after classy Sharma century
England paceman Ollie Robinson on the third day at the Oval
Rohit Sharma scored his first Test century outside India before England’s Ollie Robinson took two wickets in the first over with the second new ball on an enthralling day of fluctuating fortunes at the Oval on Saturday.
India were 270-3 in their second innings when bad light ended the third day of the fourth Test, a sizeable 171 runs ahead after England’s first innings 290.
The tourists were on the brink of batting England completely out of the game when home captain Joe Root took the new ball as soon as he could with India 236-1 off 80 overs.
From the very next delivery, Sharma, on 127, mistimed a pull off a Robinson ball that stayed in the pitch, with Chris Woakes running round from fine leg to long leg to take the catch.
It was the end of an excellent second-wicket partnership of 153 in 46 overs between Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara.
Five balls later, Pujara was out as well, his valuable 61 ending when he inside-edged Sussex seamer Robinson, via his thigh, to Moeen Ali in the slip cordon.
Befitting a see-saw five-match series locked at 1-1, India were now 237-3, with two fresh batsmen in captain Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja facing a rejuvenated England attack.
But with Root informed it was too dangerous for his quicks to bowl even though the floodlights were on, the umpires took the players off the field at 5:42 pm local time (1642 GMT).
Star batsman Kohli, without a Test hundred in nearly two years, was 22 not out and Jadeja unbeaten on nine.
Opening batsman Sharma may have been missed twice in the slips by Rory Burns but few would begrudge the 34-year-old his eighth century in 43 Tests and first in 25 overseas.
Having taken 145 balls to reach the slowest half-century of his Test career, Sharma expertly upped his tempo and needed just 59 more deliveries to complete a 204-ball hundred.
Sharma reached the landmark in style, lofting off-spinner Moeen for a superb six over long-on that accompanied 12 fours.
“You don’t just come here (England) and get a hundred, it’s a process,” Sharma told reporters, having already scored two fifties this series, including 83 in India’s 151-run win in the second Test at Lord’s.
“Getting a hundred, whether it’s overseas or at home is always a good feeling. That’s what all the batters strive for.”
As for the state of the match, Sharma said: “We are in a good position, but we do understand the game is not over until it’s over so we need to put in the same sort of effort we put in today early tomorrow as well.”
Pujara, fresh from his 91 in England’s innings and 76-run win in the third Test at Headingley, provided excellent support after overcoming an ankle injury that required several minutes’ on-field treatment.
Meanwhile England assistant coach Paul Collingwood insisted: “The conditions look very good out there so we shouldn’t be scared of whatever total they get.
“It looked very good for batting, we’ve seen the momentum shift very quickly in this series.”
India resumed Saturday on 43-0 in overcast conditions that appeared to favour England’s pacemen, albeit the pitch was a good one on which to bat.
Sharma, having seen an edge on six strike Burns on the boot at second slip, was 20 not out. He was quickly into his stride, driving England great James Anderson down the ground in the first over of the day.
He was reprieved again on 31 when he edged Robinson only for a diving Burns to floor a right-handed catch — England’s sixth dropped chance of the match.
But Anderson eventually had KL Rahul caught behind on review for 46 to leave India 83-1.
Sharma and Pujara kept the runs coming against a wayward England attack missing the express pace of Jofra Archer and Mark Wood.
There were no ‘nervous 90s’ for Sharma, a one-legged pull for four off Anderson taking him to 94 before he reached three figures against Moeen.
India 1st Innings 191 (S Thakur 57, V Kohli 50; C Woakes 4-55, O Robinson 3-38)
England 1st innings 290 (O Pope 81, C Woakes 50; U Yadav 3-76)
India 2nd Innings (overnight: 43-0)
R. Sharma c Woakes b Robinson 127
KL Rahul c Bairstow b Anderson 46
C. Pujara c Moeen b Robinson 61
V. Kohli not out 22
R. Jadeja not out 9
Extras (lb3, nb2) 5
Total (3 wkts, 92 overs, 409 mins) 270
To bat: A Rahane, R Pant, S Thakur, U Yadav, J Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj
Fall of wickets: 1-83 (Rahul), 2-236 (Sharma), 3-237 (Pujara)
Bowling: Anderson 23-8-49-1; Robinson 21-4-67-2 (1nb); Woakes 19-5-43-0 (1nb); Overton 10-0-38-0; Moeen 15-0-63-0; Root 4-1-7-0
England: Rory Burns, Haseeb Hameed, Dawid Malan, Joe Root (capt), Ollie Pope, Jonny Bairstow (wkt), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Craig Overton, Ollie Robinson, James Anderson
Match position: India lead by 171 runs with seven second-innings wickets standing
Umpires: Richard Illingworth (ENG), Alex Wharf (ENG)
TV umpire: Michael Gough (ENG)
Match referee: Chris Broad (ENG)
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