A determined Rohit Sharma showed exceptionally steely temperament to score the eighth and most significant century of his Test career that propelled India to a fighting position with an overall lead of 171 runs after third day’s play in the fourth Test against England here on Saturday.
Having displayed incredibly gorgeous defensive technique throughout the series with unflinching determination, the innings of 127 (256 balls) in India’s day-end score of 270 for 3 was the culmination of all the hardwork put in over the past two years.
The 153-run second-wicket stand with a confident Cheteshwar Pujara (61 off 127 balls) had put India in a position of command at 236 for 1 before Ollie Robinson (21-4-67-2) got quick breakthroughs with the second new ball to dismiss the two set batsmen.
While Rohit misjudged a slower delivery as he couldn’t keep his pull shot down, Robinson bowled an in-cutter that took the inside edge off Pujara’s bat into the pads and flew towards slip for an easy catch.
The Test may not go the distance but what one can surely guarantee is an engrossing fourth day, thanks to Rohit’s superlative knock. Any target in excess of 225 and closer to 250 will be challenging on this track and especially with a batting line-up where Joe Root is the only consistent performer.
One of the more elegant among modern day batsmen, Rohit during the series curbed all his ego to present a solid defence but brought his ‘Hit-Man’ instincts to the fore with a straight six off Moeen Ali that hit the second tier of the Oval stands en route his hundred.
An ecstatic captain Virat Kohli punching his fists and serene smile that refused to leave head coach Ravi Shastri’s lips said it all.
He is one of the most loved men in that Indian dressing room and this hundred which belonged more to the team than Rohit himself will remain a popular milestone in terms of importance quotient.
It took eight years and 43 Test matches to get an overseas hundred and that too in England in tough conditions, and there won’t be any second guess about where this knock of Rohit will rank among his eight tons.
There was a lot of restraint at the start when KL Rahul (46) was attacking the bowlers but in between a straight drive at the onset and the first cover drive was brought out of the closet only at the end of second hour when James Anderson (23-8-49-1) over-pitched one.
Rohit did offer a couple of streaky chances that Rory Burns at slip failed to capitalise or that uppish on-drive that caught Chris Woakes stationed at mid-on went on the wrong foot.
However, Pujara should not be denied his share of credit as his counter-attacking batting did help Rohit to play his shots. The square cut that had gone extinct from his game of late was back on the day as he looked the vintage Pujara, who would rock back and play those regal shots including a late cut and a ramp shot which brought thunderous applause from the majority of spectators.
In all, he hit nine fours and the pull-shot off Moeen Ali that got India the lead was a statement for one and all.
Rohit also played some cracking sweep shots after getting into his 80’s after leaving the balls admirably during that first session and defending dourly with the bat kept close to his body.
Earlier, Rahul, for good measure, cover drove Robinson for a boundary and then hooked him for a six. But there was some anxious moments as Robinson got one to angle in and the on-field umpire ruled him leg before only to be successfully reviewed by the batsman.
Once Rahul was out, Anderson provided Rohit with an over-pitched delivery that was dispatched through the cover region and also pulled Craig Overton for another four.
On either side of that boundary, Pujara hit an off-drive and square cut off Robinson and Overton respectively. In the second session which went wicket-less for England, Rohit and Pujara added insult to the injury with their critically acclaimed performances.