India 191 and 270 for 3 (Rohit 127, Pujara 61) lead England 290 by 171 runs
It was worth the wait. Rohit Sharma‘s first Test hundred away from home took India into a dominant position against England at The Oval, leaving them well-placed to push for a 2-1 lead in the series.
Rohit shared partnerships of 83 and 153 for the first and second wicket with KL Rahul and Cheteshwar Pujara, pressing on through the third morning after seeing out 16 overs on the second evening. He batted within himself for most of the day in gloomy, overcast conditions but moved from 94 to his hundred by swinging Moeen Ali for six over long-on.
He was eventually dismissed in bizarre fashion, heaving a pull straight to long leg when Ollie Robinson dug the second new ball into the pitch, and when Robinson had Pujara caught in the slips via an inside edge into his back thigh five balls later, England were back in the game. But Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja – retaining his spot at No. 5 – battled through before bad light brought an early close shortly before 5.45pm local time.
Rohit rode his luck at times, offering two chances to Rory Burns at second slip, but neither was taken. The first came on the second evening when he had made only six: he edged James Anderson into the cordon, but Burns appeared not to pick the ball up against the backdrop of the crowd and only realised it had come in his direction once it had brushed his foot on its way to the boundary.
The second came on 31, when Ollie Robinson had him poking defensively at a wide-ish ball on a good length. Third slip had been moved into the covers shortly before, meaning Burns had to fling himself to his right; he could only get a fingertip to it, pushing it down towards third man.
Anderson made the breakthrough shortly after Burns’ second drop, inducing an outside edge from Rahul. Rahul had started brightly, driving Chris Woakes down the ground for four and pulling him for six, but England bowled dry to stem the flow of runs. Anderson found a hint of movement away off the seam as Rahul came forward to defend; the on-field decision was not out, but the DRS showed a healthy outside edge.
Rahul gestured to the umpires that he had flicked his back pad with his bat on the way through, but replays confirmed the ball had hit the bat after that. England reviewed an lbw appeal shortly before lunch with Rohit on 42, but DRS confirmed it was an optimistic shout.
Pujara started his innings brightly, admittedly helped by some loose bowling from England’s change bowlers, but had to overcome an injury scare shortly after lunch. He rolled his ankle turning at the non-striker’s end and underwent seven minutes of treatment from the physio with heavy strapping before resuming.
Rohit punched Craig Overton off the back foot for two to bring up his fifty and Pujara continued to bat fluently, cutting two boundaries in the space of three balls off Overton – the second a deft, late upper-cut over the vacant gully region. Rohit cruised through the 90s, pulling Anderson for four and then bringing up his hundred with a straight six, celebrating in restrained style.
Rohit’s comparative struggles overseas compared to in India have often been used as a stick to beat him with but this was further proof that he is still one of the best all-format players in the world. This was his third 50+ score in the series and his eighth Test hundred in all – three of them brought up with a six.
Pujara brought up his own half-century – his second in three innings – by steering Overton away behind square after tea, as England tried out a short-ball strategy with the second new ball looming to no great effect. The crowd were subdued, with the partnership extending past 150 as Moeen and Root’s offbreaks were milked.
But Robinson struck twice in the first over bowled with the new ball to change the complexion of the day and enliven the crowd. The first was an innocuous ball, a back-of-a-length loosener which hardly got up above waist-height, which Rohit inexplicably pulled straight to long leg; five balls later, Pujara was cramped for room playing off the back foot and inside-edged to third slip via the back thigh, given out on review.
Jadeja walked out to join Kohli, keeping his position at No. 5 after his surprise promotion in the first innings, and the pair saw India through to the close with Kohli again looking in superb form, creaming two cover drives away for four. They will resume with a lead of 171 on the fourth morning and while the pitch appears to have flattened out, India will be much the happier side overnight.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.