London: Young Rishabh Pant made amends for his poor glovework with a scintillating hundred as India reached 298 for 5 against England at tea in pursuit of a world record target of 464 in the fifth and final Test. Left-handed Pant was batting 101 and added 177 runs for the sixth wicket with KL Rahul (142 batting) as India require 166 runs in 32 overs in the final session to earn a world record victory.
The second session certainly belonged to Pant, who hit 14 boundaries and three sixes including one over deep mid-wicket off Adil Rashid to complete a well-deserved hundred. Rahul who had attacked during the first session dropped anchor allowing Pant to play a free-flowing game.
Having performed below par with the gloves, the century would certainly give him oxygen ahead of the West Indies home series. With Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid in operation for the better part, Pant muscled the balls through the gaps with some delectable drives through off and powerful slog shots through the on-side.
This was incidentally the first ever hundred by an Indian keeper on English soil surpassing previous best of 92 by MS Dhoni. Earlier, Rahul finally did justice to his immense talent as his belligerent century kept India in the hunt after the initial hiccups. Rahul has hit 19 fours and a six as England were on course striking twin blows towards the end of the first session to remain on course for a 4-1 series victory.
This is Rahul’s fifth Test hundred and first 50 plus score of the series after failing in nine successive innings.
Rahul added 118 runs for the fourth wicket with vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane (37, 106 balls) before an indiscreet paddle sweep off Moeen Ali brought about the latter’s downfall. Hanuma Vihari (0) didn’t have the luck of the first innings as Ben Stokes got him to nick one to Jonny Bairstow behind the stumps.
Starting from overnight 58/3, Rahul and his fourth-wicket partner Ajinkya Rahane (37) looked to play for time. Thanks to the heavy roller, the wicket wasn’t doing too much again as in the first four morning sessions. Despite a few plays and misses, the duo was able to see off the first hour of play without any trouble, adding 39 runs. Rahul reached 50 off 57 balls.
Growing in confidence, they started playing a few more shots, especially against Moeen Ali (1-47). Rahul survived a hairy moment in the 32nd over, when an lbw shout via DRS review was turned down.
They took India past 150 in the 41st over with their 100-partnership coming off 179 balls, thus raising vision of a fighting draw in overcast and gloomy conditions. Rahul reached his hundred off 118 balls and put on 46 runs off 50 balls with Pant, as they staved off England despite their double blows.
The stand out shots from Rahul were a slapped six over extra cover and a boundary through mid-on off Stokes’ bowling.
The celebrations were predictably muted as he only kissed the crest of his helmet and acknowledged the ovation from the Indian dressing room.