Talented opener KL Rahul displayed superb temperament but missed out on a well-deserved double century by a solitary run even though India were in a commanding position at 391 for 4 on the third day of the fifth Test against England here.
India are only 87 runs behind England with six wickets in hand and the penultimate day’s proceedings on how the hosts play an enforcer will determine if there would be a result in the match.
Rahul, who hit a career-best 199, was in a record breaking spree en route his fourth Test hundred. He was devastated after coming tantalisingly close to his maiden double hundred before a moment’s laziness saw him slash a loopy leg break from Adil Rashid straight into the hands of Jos Buttler.
So disappointed was Rahul that he found it difficult to drag himself back to the pavilion even as his captain Virat Kohli looked equally gutted. His innings was the highest by an Indian opener against England at home since Budhi Kunderan’s 192 at erstwhile Madras in 1964.
He faced 311 balls to hit 16 boundaries and three lovely sixes of off spinners Liam Dawson and Moeen Ali.
An opening partnership of 152 with Parthiv Patel (71) set the perfect platform and it was utilised perfectly with another 161-run stand for the fourth wicket with Karun Nair (71 batting).
Both Parthiv and Karun also notched up their individual best in Test cricket. Karun would also feel happy having made most of the third chance that he got after getting out cheaply in the first two Tests.
It was primarily due to Rahul that India scored 331 runs in 88 overs on Sunday despite their two prime performers in skipper Virat Kohli (15) and No.3 Cheteshwar Pujara (16) having a rare off day. An elegant stroke player, Rahul did not have big scores (0,10 and 24) in the previous three innings since his comeback from hamstring injury. Not to forget he missed the Mohali Test due to a bruised forearm.
Having played cautiously on Saturday, Rahul was at his elegant best striking some flowing drives and the lofted sixes off Dawson were a treat for the eyes.
Just how much Rahul’s presence means for Kohli was evident when the Indian skipper raised his arms before the centurion when they were running the milestone run for the Mangalore man.
It has been Kohli’s unshakable belief in Rahul’s abilities that has made him stand by him despite talks about Gautam Gambhir deserving a few more chances.
Resuming their innings at 60-0, India produced a solid batting performance as Rahul and Parthiv complemented each other. While Rahul took 96 balls to score his fifty, Parthiv achieved the feat in 84 deliveries as the duo shared a 152-run partnership for the opening wicket at the MA Chidambaram Stadium.
It was spinner Moeen Ali, who finally broke the stand when he had Parthiv caught by Jos Buttler at cover after the wicket-keeper batsman tried to repeat a shot which had earned him a boundary earlier in the over. Parthiv, who scored his second half ton of the series played 112 balls hitting seven fours in the process. After Parthiv’s departure, Pujara joined Rahul and the duo scored 21 runs off 37 balls.
It was one of the rare bad day for skipper Kohli, who hit a boundary in 29 balls.
Stuart Broad (1/46 in 18 overs) gave a delivery on the drivable length and Kohli was caught in the cover region by Keaton Jennings.
Before Kohli, it was the dependable Pujara, who pushed hard at a Ben Stokes delivery that was moving away and Cook held onto a regulation slip catch.
With injured Murali Vijay (17 batting) coming in at No 6, India will hope to score quick runs and get a lead of 100 which would enable them to put pressure on England and go for a victory.