Pope shines before India start fightback against England

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Rohit Sharma led the way with his first Test century outside India as the tourists bossed day three of the fourth Test against England.

India had trailed by 99 runs on first innings, but they were on course for a hefty total batting second time around, reaching 270-3 at stumps at The Oval.

It was 34-year-old Sharma who did much of the leg work, amassing 127 on a flat pitch before falling victim to the first delivery after England took the new ball, caught on the pull off Ollie Robinson.

KL Rahul fell for 46 and Cheteshwar Pujara made a handy 61, with bad light bringing an early end to play in south London after India had built a lead of 171 runs.

Trailing by 56 overnight, on 43-0 in their second bat, India were looking for openers Rohit and Rahul to move them ahead in the game, yet they lost the latter midway through the morning session, with James Anderson drawing a thin nick through to Jonny Bairstow. England’s initial appeals were rebuffed, but a review showed the batsman had feathered the ball on its way to the wicketkeeper.

From 83-1, India pushed on and Pujara bludgeoned Moeen over square leg to the boundary to nudge the tourists ahead in the match.

Rohit reached his century with a mighty six over long-on off Moeen Ali in the 64th over, with Virat Kohli leading the acclaim on the players’ balcony. It was Rohit’s eighth ton overall in the longest format, and his second against England, having made 161 in February of this year in Chennai, where India landed victory by 317 runs.

This match took a twist with the introduction of the new ball after 80 overs, as Robinson removed Rohit immediately and dismissed Pujara five balls later. Rohit got a top edge on a short ball and Chris Woakes held on well at long leg, before Pujara was snared on review, getting an inside edge into his thigh pad, the ball squirting out to Moeen at slip.

India took their lead past 150 when Kohli hit Robinson for two boundaries in three balls, finding the ropes either side of a big lbw appeal. Replays showed the ball to be zipping over leg stump by a couple of inches. But it was an overcast afternoon and as England sought to make late inroads, those hopes were scuppered by the light meters.

ROHIT JOINS ELITE LIST

Rohit had a day to savour, becoming the sixth India opening batsman to make a Test century against England at The Oval, joining a top-class line-up of those that have gone before him. Vijay Merchant was the first, in 1946, followed by Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri, Rahul Dravid and KL Rahul.

PARTNERSHIPS COME GOOD

Rohit and Rahul became the eighth pair of touring openers to plunder at least three first-wicket stands worth 80 or more in a Test series in England. Then Rahul and Pujara put on the equal highest second-wicket partnership by an India pair against England at The Oval, matching the 153-run partnership between Gavaskar and Dilip Vengsarkar in 1979. On that occasion, India recovered from a first-innings deficit of 103 to almost win the match, finishing nine runs short with two wickets standing when an epic contest was called a draw.

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