Already an established white-ball player, Rahul, who has curiously struggled in Tests, capitalised on his good fortune. After two good knocks of 84 and 26 at Trent Bridge, the29-year-old got his sixth Test hundred and his first since the 149 at The Oval in 2018, to get on to the coveted honours board.
Rahul’s century (127*, 248 b, 12×4, 1×6) and the sublime 83 (145b, 11×4, 1×6) by fellow opener Sharma got India to a powerful at 276-3 at stumps, prompting England skipper Joe Root to ponder whether he had blundered by inserting the opposition in on a dark and damp morning that turned into a sun-kissed London evening almost in celebration of India’s batting dominance.
Despite a cautious beginning, after a delay of half an hour due to rain, it was classic Test-match batting by Rahul and Sharma, who conceded the first session to the bowling team by leaving as many deliveries as they could and by playing as late and as close to their bodies as possible.
Sharma, who was the dominant player in the opening stand of 126 (India’s first triple-figure opening stand in SENA countries since 2010 and the first in England since Dinesh Karthik and Wasim Jaffer’s series-winning 147 at Trent Bridge in 2007), impressed most with his defensive technique and by the adjustment he made by opening his stance against left-arm seamer Sam Curran to avoid falling lbw like he has to Mohammed Amir and Trent Boult.
India’s first boundary came only after 12.5 overs. That seemed to break the shackles as Sharma hit four boundaries off Curran two overs later. In the 19th over, showers forced the players indoors again and lunch was taken.
Atop-edged six from Sharma over fine-leg off a Mark Wood thunderbolt encouraged the bowler to test out the middle of the pitch again. But when a 93-mph delivery was pulled infront of square, Wood knew it was Sharma’s day.
And Sharma’s day it was till Anderson castled him with a classic inswinger that the Mumbai batsman wasn’t fully forward to and the ball found the gap between bat and pad.
Anderson then dismissed a struggling Cheteshwar Pujara caught at second slip by Jonny Bairstow.
Those two strikes almost galvanised Rahul and he assumed the mantle of the run-scorer after he took 105 balls to score his first 20 runs. He lofted Moeen Ali for a six, square drove Wood and Robinson and collected singles using deft touches. But his most important contribution was when Indian skipper Virat Kohli walked in. Lord’s was silent with expectation to watch his battle with Anderson.
Rahul ensured that he played out the crucial overs before tea off Anderson so that Kohli did not have to face his nemesis immediately.