LONDON (AP) — 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 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.
Virat Kohli (22) and Ravindra Jadeja (9), who was again sent in up the order, held firm and put on 33 for the fourth wicket until bad light forced England to bowl only spin, or go off.
After an over each of Joe Root and Ali, Root had enough and put the ball in the hands of Woakes, a seamer. That automatically resulted in the players walking off the field with about an hour left to play, just as things were building to a crescendo.
They didn’t return.
India has the edge but a couple of early wickets on the fourth day will change that.
“Anything around 250 will be a good target for us to aim at,” said Pujara, who batted for much of his innings with a sore left ankle after rolling it while turning at the non-striker's end.
The series is locked at 1-1 with one more test to come, at Old Trafford starting next week.
It couldn’t be closer.
Much of that is down to Sharma, who shared an 83-run stand with KL Rahul and then easily the biggest partnership of the match with Pujara.
A couple of highlights of Sharma's eighth test century was a textbook straight drive for four in the morning, and a paddle-sweep to the boundary after lunch.
“He has been batting well throughout the series and it was time he converted the fifties into a big one," Pujara said. "It was a pleasure to watch from the non-striker’s end.”
Sharma was, though, dropped early on day three by Rory Burns, who got a hand to an edge off Woakes when diving to his right at second slip but couldn't hold it. Burns had also squandered a chance off Sharma in the cordon late Friday, not even getting a hand to the ball on that occasion because the sun was in his eyes.
The only wicket to fall before lunch was Rahul, who tickled an edge behind off Jimmy Anderson for 46. The umpire didn’t give him out despite England’s appeals, but Root reviewed and UltraEdge showed a small spike.
Rahul shook his head as he walked off the field, not believing he got a touch.
More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports