Oval Test: Rohit Sharma ton brings India back, dismissal opens England's door

India now have a lead of 171 runs with two days of play left and skipper Virat Kohli (22 batting) at the crease with Ravindra Jadeja (9 batting).

Published: 04th September 2021 11:24 PM  |   Last Updated: 05th September 2021 12:29 AM   |  A+A-

India's Rohit Sharma (L) celebrates scoring 100 againsy England, with partner Cheteshwar Pujara. (Photo | AP)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: It ended with a nothing shot. One of those shots you couldn’t come to terms with while watching. Before that transpired, it was a wonderfully poised Test match with Rohit Sharma showing how far he has grown as a Test opener. Only for it to be cut short by his own undoing more than anything else and exposing the under-fire middle-order to the second new ball. It was an exceptional innings, yet deep inside, if you let out a curse instead of applause, you could be excused, for it seemed incomplete at the same time. Rohit’s centuries are supposed to be complete. Once he is set and has touched three figures, he ensures to make the opposition pay more.

That was the only thing you could accuse him of not doing at the Oval on Day 3 which ended with India leading by 171 runs and seven wickets in hand. When he got out to the first ball of the second new ball, there were still batsmen to come, including Virat Kohli, but they haven’t looked as assured in the middle as Rohit has been has on this tour. This is why the dismissal left your jaws wide open. There was a bit of shock and ‘what have you done Rohit?’, in the end, but let’s keep that aside for now. Simply because without his century, it is hard to imagine where India would be.

Since taking the step to bat at the top in Tests, no other opener has scored as many runs as Rohit, who has garnered 2,648 runs. And the 127 he made on Saturday is his joint-lowest of the five centuries he has made as an opener. In the 15 Tests in his new role, he already has a double century, a century each in both innings of a Test, and two second-innings hundreds. And his Test career is taking the same route as his limited-over career, where Rohit became a force to reckon with once he started opening.

Even though Rohit became an ODI opener in January 2013, it was not till October 2013 did he score his first century in the format. He took 18 innings to get one and he did so by gradually building six fifties. While he got centuries in both innings in the first time he opened in Tests, getting centuries overseas on difficult conditions is no easy job. It is a gradual process, especially if you happen to be a middle-order batsman who has been converted into an opener.

These things tend to take time, and as Rohit said at the end of play, it was a process that he has been enjoying.
"It takes time," he said of scoring centuries overseas. "It is not easy at all, at least definitely not for me. It is overseas and when I started opening, I knew big scores were not going to happen all the time. It is a process. You have to keep ticking the small boxes and I did that. Adjustments had to be made and I did it. When you play cricket all over the year, you should make little adjustments depending on conditions, situations and bowlers you face. You can't play shots straightaway, you have to understand the bowlers, conditions and also the situation of the team. It was a good process and I trusted what I was doing. And I also knew the rewards won't come immediately," Rohit said.

And statistically, England is the hardest place for openers. In the last five years, the average score of openers playing Test cricket in England is 28.6, which means unless you are disciplined and patient, it is hard to make runs on these conditions against two of their all-time great seamers. Though Stuart Broad isn’t around, Ollie Robinson and Chris Woakes are no less threatening. The duo and James Anderson, Craig Overton and Moeen Ali were all here, yet Rohit had answers to them with little with of luck on his side - he was dropped twice.

This wasn’t a century that came because he chose to spend time at the crease. Lessons from the fifties at Lord’s and Headingley were used as a building block to achieve the three-figure mark here, with India desperately needing one.

KL Rahul (46) and Cheteshwar Pujara (61) ensured Rohit had support at the other end. From a safety-first approach with Rahul, to running the show with Pujara, Rohit made that switch in no time with relative ease. With India breathing easy, England took the second new ball at the first available opportunity. And Rohit played the shot that brought his dismissal and that brought back the nerves.

Brief Scores: India 191 and 270/3 (Rohit Sharma 127, Cheteshwar Pujara 61, KL Rahul 46, Ollie Robinson 2/67, James Anderson 1/49). England 1st Innings 290.


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