By Ashis Ray
London:- Throughout this English summer, notwithstanding it being uninvitingly cold, clammy and cloudy, Rohit Sharma has looked like conquering the conditions and scoring a Test century.
After promising to do so in more than one of his previous innings on the tour, he finally accomplished the distinction on the third day of the ongoing fourth India-England Test match in a series of five engagements.
And with the feat he broke the hoodoo of not having recorded a three-figure knock in Tests outside India.
Sharma is too good a batsman not to have registered a hundred abroad. It was inevitable, a matter of time before he rectified the anomaly. He squandered opportunities in this series as well, throwing away his wicket twice, hooking ill-advisedly. But he finally made amends, completing his task with a flourish — a towering six over long on at the expense of Moeen Ali.
In the course of his essay, he offered a difficult chance and a half-chance to Rory Burns in the slips. But these were minor blemishes compared to the authority and array of his strokes in general. Given the grimness of a 99-run deficit staring down at India, he paced himself perfectly.
Circumspect for a considerable period; then the characteristic Sharma. He consumed 145 balls to cross his first 50 — the slowest of his career; his second half-century came off just 59 deliveries.
Indeed, it was a master-class in opening the batting and performing the sheet-anchor role at the highest level of cricket. A display even the peerless Sunil Gavaskar would be proud of.
Rarely in the four Tests in the clash so far, which is part and parcel of the 2021-23 ICC World Test Championship, have the pitches or the aerial atmosphere been favourable for batting.
Yet Sharma looked unhurried and untroubled in dealing with the circumstances. In notching 36 in the first Test at Trent Bridge, 83 in the second at Lord’s and 59 in the third at Headingley, he promised to deliver a ton every time, only to disappoint.
Now on another dull and dismal day, with the floodlights ensuring continuance of play, he finally defeated the demons.
But he let himself down with one more thoughtless pull – off the very first delivery with the second new ball bowled by Ollie Robinson – to be caught on the long leg fence by Chris Woakes.
(Senior cricket writer Ashis Ray is a broadcaster and author of the book ‘Cricket World Cup: The Indian Challenge’)