India’s 11-year first leaves England ruing disastrous gamble

Rohit Sharma said he had never seen KL Rahul bat better after his opening partner’s unbeaten century left India well-placed on 276-3 at stumps on the first day of the second Test against England at Lord’s on Thursday.

Rahul was initially outshone by Sharma, who made 83 in their fine stand of 126 — the first century partnership by an overseas opening pair in a Test in England since 2016, when Sri Lanka’s Dimuth Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva also achieved the feat at Lord’s.

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It was also India’s first century opening partnership in a Test outside Asia since 2010.

But, while patient in defence, Rahul was still 127 not out at the close, having batted for more than six-and-a-half hours.

“It was probably the best I have seen KL bat,” Sharma told reporters. “He was very much in control from ball one. He was very clear with his plans. I thought today was his day and he really made it count.”

Together with India captain Virat Kohli, Rahul also shared a third wicket stand of 117 before the star batsman was undone by the new ball, falling for 42 after edging Ollie Robinson to opposing captain Joe Root at first slip.

“To be fair, they played well so to get the wicket of Kohli at the end was huge and gives us a bit of momentum for the morning,” Robinson said.

Earlier, Rahul drove Mark Wood through the covers for four to go to 98 before a late cut boundary off the fast bowler — the ninth four of his innings — saw him to a 212-ball hundred that also included a six against recalled spinner Moeen Ali, one of three changes to England’s XI.

KL Rahul was in the zone.Source:Getty Images

His sixth century in 38 Tests, and third against England, came after Rahul’s 84 in last week’s rain-marred drawn opener in Nottingham.

The first of a five-match series saw the 29-year-old Rahul make his return to Test cricket following a near two-year absence after Mayank Agarwal was hit in the head batting in the Trent Bridge nets.

Once again, Rahul demonstrated resolute skill beneath overcast skies and on a green-tinged pitch that appeared to favour England’s, albeit the hosts were without all-rounders Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes, as well as fast bowler Jofra Archer.

It was no surprise when Root, the only England batsman to pass fifty at Trent Bridge with innings of 64 and 109, decided to field first after winning the toss.

But he would have hoped for more than three wickets, with James Anderson, England’s all-time leading Test bowler removing both Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara in a return of 2-52 in 20 overs.

The moment it went wrong for England.Source:Getty Images

There had been fears a thigh problem would ruled Anderson out of an attack where Stuart Broad, his longstanding new-ball partner, was already missing following a series-ending calf injury.

When India reached 100, Sharma was 75 not out, having hit four fours in one over from left-arm swing bowler Sam Curran — with Rahul trailing behind on 16 not out.

But with Rahul pacing his innings well, the fact it took him 108 balls to hit his first boundary — a straight six off Ali — was of no great concern to India.

Anderson eventually had his 622nd Test wicket when, having moved a couple of deliveries away from Sharma, he bowled him with one that jagged back.

A high high-class delivery to meant Sharma fell short of what would have been his first Test century outside of India.

“I felt very good, it was an unfortunate dismissal,” Sharma said. “But I couldn’t have done anything about it.”

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