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England-India Series

Hundred hero Sharma seizing 'last chance' in Test


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Photo: AFP

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Rohit Sharma said he was glad to be making the most of a "last chance" in Test cricket after his first overseas hundred left India well-placed against England at the Oval on Saturday.

Sharma's 127 was the cornerstone of India's second innings 270-3, a lead of 171 runs, when bad light ended the third day of the fourth Test.

It was the opener's eighth hundred in 43 Tests but first outside of India in 24 matches at this level.

A renowned limited-overs batsman, the 34-year-old's Test career had been something of a stop-start affair until he moved to the top of the order in 2019.

Since then the results have been spectacular, with Sharma scoring five hundreds in 16 Tests and averaging 58.48 as an opener compared to an overall career mark of 46.87.

"In the back of my mind, I knew this was a last chance for me (in Test cricket)," Sharma told reporters. "Mentally, I wanted to take that challenge and do well up the order... I was very much ready for it."

Sharma has been in fine form against England this series, having made two previous fifties including an excellent 83 during India's 151-run win in the second Test at Lord's.

"You don't just come here (England) and get a hundred," said Sharma. "It's never been like that... It's a process and it takes time.

"Getting a hundred, whether it's overseas or at home is always a good feeling."

His century at the Oval, made beneath largely overcast skies that favoured England's quick bowlers, was a superbly-paced effort from Sharma despite being dropped twice in the slips by Rory Burns.

 'Can't just play shots' -

Having taken 145 balls to reach the slowest half-century of his Test career, Sharma expertly upped his tempo and needed just 59 more deliveries to go to a 204-ball hundred completed with a magnificent straight six off spinner Moeen Ali.

"You can't just come and play shots, especially when you are opening in England," said Sharma who, despite not being renowned for his patience, batted for nearly six hours.

"The most pleasing thing was that I was able to play 250 balls (256 in total)," he said. "We do know things get a little easier when you spend time in the middle and see what the bowlers are doing and get the feel of the situation.

"The four Test matches I've batted (in this series), the biggest takeaway is spending time in the middle. The runs will come."

Sharma also put on 83 with fellow opener KL Rahul (46) and shared a commanding second-wicket stand of 153 with Cheteshwar Pujara (61).

Such was their dominance, it was a major surprise when Sharma and Pujara both fell to Ollie Robinson in the first over with the second new ball.

"Rohit has been batting well throughout the series, he's got a couple of fifties and it was time he converted those fifties into a big one and today was the day," Pujara told Sky Sports after helping India overturn a first-innings deficit of 99.

Sharma, with the five-match series level at 1-1, added: "I'm pretty happy with the way things turned out, not just for me but the whole group.

"We are in a good position but we do understand the game is not over until it's over."

Meanwhile, England assistant coach Paul Collingwood insisted: "The conditions look very good out there so we shouldn't be scared of whatever total they get.

"It looked very good for batting, we've seen the momentum shift very quickly in this series."