Rohit Sharma cures his travel sickness as the opener puts on a masterclass for India in tough conditions to hit his highest overseas Test score with 83 before being bowled out by Jimmy Anderson
- India took a commanding total of 276-3 over England on day one at Lord’s
- Rohit Sharma led the way as the India opener produced a masterclass
- He was bowled out for a total of 83 by Jimmy Anderson not long before tea
- It was the highest overseas Test score of Sharma’s career on an impressive day
When Rohit Sharma was bowled for 83 by Jimmy Anderson not long before tea, he had played so nicely that his dismissal was not the only surprise. Astonishingly, a player of his calibre had never made more in a Test outside India.
Sharma is 34 now and, for all the excellence of his Test record at home (seven hundreds and an average just shy of 80), has long been in danger of being pigeon-holed as a limited-overs great.
As pigeon-holes go, it’s not the worst – not in the third decade of the 21st century. Of the eight double-centuries scored in one-day internationals, he alone has three. His 264 off 173 balls against Sri Lanka at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens in 2014-15 remains a world record. If anyone embodies the white-ball zeitgeist, it is Sharma. Frankly, he could retire happy tomorrow.
Rohit Sharma produced a masterclass in batting for India as he was bowled for 83
His overseas Test record stood out on a day where India took a commanding total of 276-3
His Test career, though, has progressed in fits and starts: 41 Tests in eight years, accompanied by a general sense among Indian fans that the longest form of the game was not really his thing. And when he hooked Ollie Robinson to long leg on the stroke of lunch on the second day at Nottingham, seasoned critics sighed knowingly.
But Sharma shrugged that the stroke had always been part of his repertoire, and he had erred only in its execution. When Mark Wood, who was regularly topping 90mph, dropped short, Sharma helped him over fine leg for six, as if to underline his point.
The quality of Thursday’s innings, however, lay not in the odd stroke here or there, but in its unshakeable certainty. England had picked four seamers and, under grey skies, chosen to bowl: at Lord’s, they say, you look up, not down. In similar conditions here three years ago, they had been blown away for 107 and 130.
Sharma missed that collective trauma, which may have been no bad thing, and instead batted with a calm that has often been beyond Indian openers in this country.
As Andrew Strauss observed on Sky: ‘You get the feeling that was something genuinely special. Hard conditions, overcast, bit of swing, and he was in complete control. An absolute masterclass.’
For a while, it looked as if the extent of India’s ambition would be survival. Then Sharma took four fours off Sam Curran’s third over, changing the mood of the morning. Until then, India had survived off scraps. After it, they were on their way.
Sharma embraces teammate KL Rahul after celebrating the first 100 of their partnership
Or rather: Sharma was on his way. At the other end, KL Rahul lurked in his shadow, contributing 16 to the first 100 of the partnership, and not scoring his first boundary – a straight six off Moeen Ali – until Sharma had hit 12.
That is not to denigrate Rahul, who was India’s best batsman in Nottingham, and now gradually crushed England’s spirits after his partner’s demise. His sixth Test hundred was its own kind of masterpiece, of patience and good judgment.
But it was Sharma who made the tough runs in the trickiest conditions, Sharma who singlehandedly called into question Root’s decision to bowl. Anderson and Robinson were treated with respect; Curran and Wood milked with skill. That Ali was on as early as the 29th over, in these conditions, was because England had been made to search for a wicket.
They have seen Sharma before, of course. At Chennai in February, with India 1-0 down, he kickstarted their fightback with a majestic 161 before he was fourth out at 248. Root’s team managed 134 and 164 in reply. Then, at Ahmedabad, he responded to England’s 112 with 66, the game’s highest score.
Andrew Strauss described Sharma’s batting ‘as something special’ in difficult conditions
At the back of English minds, though, was the thought that a bit of seam and swing would make him a less serious proposition.
Yet his lapse of judgment at Trent Bridge obscured the fact that, in only his second Test in England, seven years after his first, he had had batted sensibly for nearly three hours in making 36.
For much of his career, Sharma has fought another battle, with Indian gossip columnists pitting him and his wife, Ritika, against Virat Kohli and his Bollywood wife, Anushka Sharma. Even Sharma’s exceptional one-day record has been eclipsed by Kohli. It has been easy to position him as a nearly man, a wannabe – the figure mocked sporadically as ‘Nohit Sharma’.
But since his most recent Test comeback, in December 2019, Sharma has comfortably outperformed his captain, scoring more runs for India than anyone bar Rishabh Pant.
If India go on to win this Test and – who knows – the series, someone is going to have to come up with a different nickname.
Anderson took two wickets for England on both Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara
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