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ENG vs IND 4th Test, Day 3: Restrained Rohit Puts India In Control At The Oval

Clinched with a six down the ground, Rohit Sharma’s first overseas century swung the momentum of an oscillating fourth Test India’s way despite a late double intervention by England pacer Ollie Robinson on the third day at The Oval. Bad light brought an early end to with India finishing on 270/3, with a lead of 171 runs.

The tourists had hauled themselves back in front on Saturday on the back of a splendid 127 by Sharma, the classy right-handed opener who’s shot-making all around the ground lit up a sometimes-gloomy day in south London. He brought up his first away hundred with a cleanly struck, straight six off spinner Moeen Ali, which ended his eight-year wait for a hundred outside India. By that stage, India had turned the game on its head after starting the day on 43/0, trailing by 56 runs after England had eked out a 99-run lead after the first innings.

Here are the talking points from the day’s play.

Openers help India shed doubts

At 83/1, India’s opening pair had finally been dismissed, but not before KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma had seen through the all-important first hour of the play on Saturday.

The pitch favoured the batsmen but initial conditions were still not as easy for batting, with the ball seaming around. Under overcast conditions, England’s seam attack remained, relentless, consistently pitching on the good-length areas. Woakes also found more zip than the rest. But the gap with England was first closed, and then by lunch, though Rahul wasn’t there anymore, India had inched ahead.

Rohit and Rahul have now batted out 164.1 overs in the ongoing series, the most by India’s first wicket in England since 2007. The next best is 92.4. Only one opening pair has batted for as many overs in England since 1999.

Rohit’s landmark ton a reward of hard work

In conquering the English conditions and bowlers, Rohit Sharma (127) reinvented himself. A white-ball beast, Rohit’s Test career was heading the Yuvraj Singh way – a match-winner in LOIs whilst being unable to pick up the challenge in Tests – but a second lifeline in 2019 by MSK Prasad was all that the Mumbai player needed.

He batted for three hours and 145 balls for his half-century, and got his next fifty off 59 balls. His eighth Test century off 204 balls was his slowest. He was lucky to be dropped twice by Rory Burns at second slip but Rohit remained more patient through his innings, reined himself in on the off-side and batted with a lower backlift, in complete control of his defence. He reached his hundred with a huge six, and was unlucky to be out playing that dreaded pull shot, which has led to his failing four times in the series.

Lack of swing surprises English bowlers

The lack of swing from the Duke Ball surprised the English camp on Saturday. As India put themselves in the driver’s seat after day three of the fourth and penultimate Test, England assistant coach Paul Collingwood said the lack of swing was a surprise for the hosts. The match had seen 13 wickets falling on Day One when India got dismissed for 191, but conditions seemed to have improved for batting thereafter as England bowlers capped a frustrating day, managing just three wickets on Saturday.

“I thought we were very disciplined and stuck to task all day. But one thing that surprised us was the lack of swing from the duke ball,” the former England captain told the media after the day’s proceedings. “We all know once there’s some movement in the air, and the wicket with some carry it would trouble the Indian batsmen. So we were pretty surprised and could not get the swing. We tried everything with it, changing the shining side but could not get movement,” he rued.

Collingwood also praised the Indian batters. “I thought we asked questions all day. But a lot of credit goes to the Indian batsmen with Rohit at the top of the order. We had to wait for the breakthrough, thankfully we got it with the help of the second new ball.”

Two days, game wide open, India would want to think they are the favourites

With a maximum of 180 overs left in the fourth Test match of the series, both camps would be considering themselves to have the advantage. For India, the task is simple. With a lead of 171 runs, the WTC runners-up would be hoping to bat till Tea, before declaring their innings, giving England at least 250 to chase. Anything above 250 runs to chase in the fourth innings will be a tough task. Joe Root would be hoping their boys could get early wickets and cause another middle-order collapse to keep India’s lead in check and have a chance to go 2-1 up in the series, with just a final Test left at Old Trafford.

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