India vs England: Century at The Oval, a long overdue monkey off Rohit Sharma’s back – Firstcricket News, Firstpost

Moeen Ali bowls the fifth ball of the 64th over, Rohit Sharma takes a step or two down the pitch and nonchalantly swipes it down the ground, the ball soaring over the head of James Anderson at long on and burying itself deep in the second tier of The Oval pavilion.

Rohit Sharma scored his first away Test century at The Oval in the fourth Test against England. AFP

This, though, is no ordinary six, as the umpire raises his arms aloft the crowd rise to their feet, Rohit’s score ticking over from 94 to 100 on the big screens looming down on the ground. The celebration is almost as casual as the ease with which the ball was dispatched, a quick high five and embrace with Cheteshwar Pujara and a fairly lackadaisical waving of the bat, the helmet not even taken off.

You would not then have guessed that this in itself was no ordinary century for Rohit, the eighth of his career but the first made away from home, at the 45th time of asking – it is a long overdue monkey now removed from his back.

It is a moment that has been worth the wait for Rohit, one that looked a certainty when he was cruising two Tests ago at Lord’s, only to have his off stump knocked back by a moment of genius from James Anderson. It is a moment too that is richly deserved, Rohit by some measure India’s best batsman in the series, his opening stands with KL Rahul setting the foundation for almost everything good his side have done with the bat.

This has been a man at the top of his game, a man after all who has an ODI high score of 264 and four hundreds and a strike rate of 138.96 in T20Is, and yet this series, this innings, has been a masterclass in restraint – seeing off deadly opening spells from England’s master craftsmen time and time again.

Here for instance: 13% of the shots he played (or rather didn’t) were leaves, never has he left the ball more on the way to a Test match hundred. It is a method that is clearly suiting him well, since the start of 2019 he averages 58.48 and has made five of his eight Test hundreds, including a career best 212 against South Africa at Ranchi.

It has certainly been a more notable contribution to Test cricket on these shores than his previous attempt, a solitary Test at Southampton in 2014, 34 runs at number five across two innings, as India succumbed to a 266-run defeat.

It could of course have been so very different here, Rohit thankful for the profligacy of Rory Burns at second slip, twice letting him off the hook with dropped catches when he had made just 6 and 31 – those though are the moments of fortune that all good innings usually require and Rohit was certainly in the mood to cash in.

There is a charming nonchalance to the way he bats, drives caressed through the offside with an ease that, when it appears, seems almost at odds to the diligent defence that has preceded it. First with Rahul and then Pujara, Rohit has helped bat India into a strong position at the end of the third day, 171 runs ahead and with seven wickets still in hand.

Such was the apparent composure with which he was batting, it seemed he might go on all day, England’s bowlers looking increasingly ragged as they returned for spell after fruitless spell. Then the arrival of the second new ball and in classic Rohit style he was gone, somehow conspiring to pull a rank long-hop from Ollie Robinson into the grateful and disbelieving hands of Chris Woakes at deep square leg.

It was an undignified end to a masterful innings, but then again when you’re in this kind of touch perhaps the only man who could ever really get him out was always going to be himself.

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