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India batsman Rohit Sharma produced one of the crowning achievements of his career with a fine century that turned the tide of the fourth LV= Insurance Test against England on a trying third day at the Kia Oval.
Rohit capped his impressive efforts in the series with a superb 127, his first ever overseas ton, helping turn a first-innings deficit of 99 into a lead of 171 by the time bad light drew in.
India finished on 270 for three and are poised to make life extremely difficult for the hosts, with captain Virat Kohli ominously positioned to lead the charge on day four.
Ollie Robinson struck twice in the first over of the second new ball to see off Rohit and Cheteshwar Pujara (61), giving England something to cling to after managing a solitary breakthrough in more than two sessions.
Rohit is renowned as one of the greatest one-day batsmen in history but there was one notable blind-spot on his Test CV – with all seven of his centuries coming in home conditions.
The 34-year-old has always seemed too good a player, and too adaptable, for such an omission but his barren streak on the road had reached 23 matches and 44 innings prior to his efforts in London.
Every run would have felt like a dagger to Rory Burns, who had dropped Rohit with just four to his name on the second evening and did so again in the morning session on 31.
He eventually fell to the first delivery of the second new ball, an underpowered short one from Robinson, but by then his stands of 83 alongside KL Rahul and 153 with Pujara flipped the game heavily in the tourists’ favour.
The morning session was an enjoyable tussle which India got the better of, turning their 56-run overnight deficit into a nine-run lead. England did their best with a softening ball and an unresponsive pitch but were frequently frustrated.
An lbw verdict went in Chris Woakes’ favour on the field only for DRS to disagree, while Moeen got nowhere with a referral of his own against Rohit.
Even when Robinson did create a genuine opportunity by squaring Rohit up it came to nothing. The chance would have been a regulation take for third slip but, without one, Burns could only parry one-handed. It was England’s sixth drop of the game.
Anderson eventually gave something to show for the hard work, returning for a second spell and racing off in celebration after going past Rahul’s outside edge. Umpire Alex Wharf was unmoved and Rahul appeared to suggest any sound had been bat to pad, but a tell-tale spike on UltraEdge spoke in the bowler’s favour.
Rohit was careful and quiet before lunch but, after spending 145 deliveries over his half-century, he took just 59 more to convert as he made his move in a one-sided afternoon. He did much of his best work off Moeen Ali’s spin, slapping him uppishly through the off side before stooping into a couple of hard-hit sweeps.
He eased through the nineties with two scoring shots, whipping Anderson from outside off through the on-side then treating himself to a luxurious swing off Moeen to reach his ton with a steepling six.
England had stationed catchers in the deep for just such an occasion, but they could only watch as the ball sailed into the crowd.
Pujara had been a perfect foil, punishing Craig Overton’s tendency to slip short or wide and even uppercutting Woakes over the cordon.
There was relief all round when Joe Root unwrapped the fresh Dukes and tossed it to Robinson, but nobody could have predicted what happened next. Nine times out of 10, Rohit would back himself to punish the slightly stiff loosener that came his way first up.
Instead, perhaps surprised by the lack of venom, he got underneath the ball and pulled it high to Woakes at fine-leg. After 256 balls at the crease, it was a gift.
Rohit had batted alongside Pujara for 44 overs and the pair were quickly reunited in the pavilion. Robinson’s final delivery of the over hit the pitch with a bit more purpose, nipped in off the seam and clipped the inside edge of Pujara’s bat.
A ricochet off the thigh guard, a loopy catch to third slip and an appeal to DRS followed to leave India 237 for three.
For the first time in a couple of hours the hum and chatter around the ground had turned into a roar but Kohli held his ground to reach 22no in fading light alongside Ravindra Jadeja.