After a pretty watchful start in which he took 108 deliveries for his first boundary, KL Rahul’s game blossomed to engrave his name on the Lord’s honours board with a fine hundred in the second Test at Lord’s. Rohit Sharma made 83 and captain Virat Kohli scored 42 before edging Ollie Robinson to Jos Buttler as India ended Day 1 on 276/3, one of their best starts to a Test match in England since the 2007 series. Having got a chance to play only because of injuries to Shubman Gill and Mayank Agarwal, Rahul is playing like a man on a mission. With 84 and 26, he had put India in a winning position at Trent Bridge. This hundred makes him nearly undroppable.
It would have given the Indian batsmen a lot of satisfaction that their runs were all hard earned. Contrary to the weather report, London woke up to overcast conditions, ideal for pace bowling. According to the CricViz Analyst, which uses ball tracking to assess conditions, the day was rated 6.4, making it the second toughest Day 1 of a Lord’s Test since the start of 2015. But Rahul and Sharma are developing into a fine opening pair. After a partnership of 97 at Nottingham, here they added 124 runs. It is the fifth-highest opening partnership for India in England and the second highest opening partnership ever at Lord’s for India. On their last tour here, the Indian openers had added 237 runs across 10 innings for the first wicket. Sharma and Rahul already have 255 runs together in three innings.
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Rahul played his role to perfection to help build the platform. With Sharma finding his rhythm earlier, he was content to play second fiddle. When their stand touched 100, the senior batsman’s contribution was 75 (109 balls) and Rahul’s 16 (90 balls). With James Anderson & Co testing him in the corridor in the first session, the Karnataka player displayed excellent judgment of where his off-stump was. If his leave percentage in 2015 was 13, in 2021 it grew to 30 percent. The first big hit was only played post the 40th over, when Rahul faced stepped out to Moeen Ali and cleared the long-off rope to move to 28. By then, Sharma had slammed 11 fours and a six, a tally which Rahul matched in due course.
His confidence back, the centurion’s cover drive was a treat to watch – the one off Sam Curran to move from 69 to 73 being the stroke of the day after having creamed Anderson to the cover point three balls earlier.
Innings by innings, Sharma’s Test career is on course correction. He went to Australia at the start of the year and made the pace of Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc look pedestrian by easily seeing off the new ball during the Sydney and Brisbane Tests. The question whether he can handle the swing of Anderson and Stuart Broad in England was settled in his first two innings of the ongoing series.
The next challenge was to build on the starts he was getting. Sharma couldn’t have chosen a better occasion and venue to tick that box too, notching is highest score away from home. With the England pacers disciplined with the new ball, India were 22 for no loss after 14 overs, a run rate of 1.57, before Sharma exploded to take four fours off Curran to seize the momentum in the 15th over. He never dropped the gear thereafter. There was a six off Ali by dancing down the track and clearing long-on, followed by a hook into the stands of a 93mph bouncer by Mark Wood. But he fell 17 runs short of what would have been a deserving century.