Rohit Sharma’s century grinds India into ascendancy against England


or all but five frenzied minutes in the final session, the third day of this undulating Fourth Test saw India slow-cooking their way into a mighty position.

Rohit Sharma made his seventh Test century, and his first outside India. He shared big partnerships with KL Rahul (83) and Cheteshwar Pujara (153), who both looked in equally fine touch. England’s first innings advantage of 99 was wiped out and, with the pitch flat, the ball soft and England’s attack weary, India set about building a substantial lead of their own.

Those three had driven England to such distraction that they essentially gave up trying with the old ball.

England had returned after the tea break 100 behind and had asked Craig Overton – who bowls in the low 80mphs – to go round the wicket, with every fielder stationed with the short ball in mind. It did not work. Overton soon found himself haring towards the offside boundary to save a run having pitched the ball up.

At the other end, things were just as bleak, and soon Joe Root resorted to bowling his unique brand of shuffled 90-second overs in tandem with Moeen Ali – who had a disappointing day – to get to that new ball as soon as possible.

When it arrived, it was worth the wait. First ball, Ollie Robinson banged in a bouncer that barely rose to Rohit’s waist. His top-edged pull looped up, and Chris Woakes – the only fielder in the same postcode – ambled round to take a simple catch. Out came Virat Kohli, who managed to get himself off strike, only for Pujara to be caught at third slip – via the inside edge, his thigh pad, and then a review – to the last ball of the over.

It had been a sedate sort of Saturday, but the Kia Oval was bouncing suddenly. India’s lead was 136 but England now felt full of life and hope.

11 overs later, things had calmed rather, with Kohli and Ravi Jadeja (at No5 once more) settling the scene, and the players were taken from the field for bad light. Root had been forced to reunite himself and Moeen for two overs as it faded, then gave up. It was the correct call from Root, but hardly a crowd-pleaser. Paying punters had cause to be aggrieved with the umpires’ call.

With the lead 169, Robinson’s over was not nearly enough to mask that this was emphatically India’s day.

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