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 paceman Ollie Robinson on the third day at the Oval.
Bad light brought an early end to play on Saturday — to groans from the crowd, given the state of the match — with India closing on 270-3 and with a lead of 171 runs.
The tourists hauled themselves back in front on the back of 127 by Sharma, the classy right-handed opener whose shot-making all around the ground lit up a sometimes gloomy day in south London.
The way he brought up three figures — with a cleanly struck, straight-six of the off-spinner Moeen Ali — was classic Sharma, ending 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 eked out a 99-run lead after the first innings.
However, just as it looked like England was being batted out of the game, Robinson was handed the new ball and he took two wickets in the first over with it.
Ending a second-wicket partnership of 153 runs, Sharma was early on a loosener from Robinson and top-edged a pull straight to Chris Woakes at long leg.
That was from the first delivery with the new ball. Off the sixth, Cheteshwar Pujara (61) got an inside edge off a delivery that nipped back in, and it careered off his thigh pad and was caught by Ali at gully.
Given not out on the field, a review confirmed the inside edge and the atmosphere immediately changed inside the Oval.
That left India on 237-3 and with two new batsmen in the middle. The game was back on.
However, Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja kept their wickets intact till the close of play on Day 3.
Rohit Sharma spoke about opening the innings for his national team. According to him, it was the last chance for him to save his Test career and he grabbed the opportunity with both hands when he was told to open for India.
“When the chance came to open, I was open to it and wanted to take up the challenge. I knew it was the last opportunity for me,” he said.
Rohit further added that he is pleased to face more balls during his knocks. “The most pleasing thing from this series for me is that playing around 200-250 balls in every Test match – the first goal was to play more balls, stay more time in the middle and it’s the biggest takeaway for me in this series”.