Rishabh Pant becomes first Indian wicketkeeper to score century in England

Rishabh Pant moved around from city to city in his early teens to make a name for himself.
Rishabh Pant moved around from city to city in his early teens to make a name for himself.

If KL Rahul’s counter-attacking ton in the first session provided the platform for India’s eleventh-hour effort on the final day of the series, Rishabh Pant added to England’s frustrations with a blistering hundred in the second session as they added another chapter to the story of India’s fightback in this series, one that has now raised India’s hopes of preventing England from securing a 4-1 finish. An unbroken partnership of 177 between Rahul (142*) and Pant (101*) led India’s recovery after they lost two quick wickets towards the end of the first session, as the visitors went into Tea at 298 for 5, still 166 away from the target of 464.

Cuts past point, wristy shots, authoritative pulls, aerial attempts and edges – there were plenty of those on display in the post-lunch session as Pant imposed himself on the England bowling attack while Rahul decided to take the backseat having done most of the work in the first session. England seemed devoid of ideas and their frustration grew with each passing over as not only were they unable to separate the sixth wicket pair but also weren’t able to put a lid on the scoring rate with boundaries flying to all parts of The Oval off Pant’s bat.
England’s decision to use spin for most parts of the first hour of the second session, with Root himself bowling six overs, came as a surprise as both batsmen appeared comfortable against the slower bowlers, using the feet well and not letting the turn take full effect. With the confidence of a fifty-plus score to his name, Pant took it a few gears higher in the hour before Tea as he sent the bowlers on a leather hunt. Stokes was hit for three fours in an over, Broad went for a few while Rashid was at the receiving end when Pant entered the nineties with a six and struck another maximum off the legspinner to notch up his maiden Test ton.

Earlier, it was a Rahul show in the first session, with his innings being a story of two halves. Batting with discipline, unlike his approach in the first innings as well the last session on Day 4, the opener displayed the virtues of patience as he focused on blunting the England attack in the first hour. With Ajinkya Rahane batting in a solid manner at the other end, the fifth wicket pair was solid with defence and judgement while also rotating the strike strike well. Although there were a few wafts at deliveries outside off from both batsmen, they were mostly disciplined as they kept the England bowlers at bay.

Having settled down well and seeing through the first hour without any damage, Rahul and Rahane were a lot more confident with their stroke-play as the session progressed, as they raised a century stand. However, India lost a wicket against the run of play, with Rahane’s injudicious sweep giving Moeen Ali a wicket. Ben Stokes then accounted for debutant Hanuma Vihari, who went without scoring in the second essay after a fifty in his maiden innings, as England sensed an avenue to run through the Indian batting order
Rahul, though, wasn’t in a mood to give up.

In a nice little contest with Stokes, with the latter employing a barrage of short deliveries, the Indian opener won hands down as he launched a counter-attack in the overs leading up to the lunch break. Having swept and reverse-swept Moeen with success, he slapped a Stokes delivery for a six to enter the 90s. A couple of boundaries followed in the same over, one to fine leg and one flat-batted past the bowler which helped the opener become only the second Indian centurion after Sunil Gavaskar in the fourth innings in England. At the other end, Pant scored a couple of boundaries off Moeen, including a one-handed six over long-on, with a foundation being laid for a defiant sixth wicket partnership.

Brief scores: England 332 & 423/8 decl. lead India 292 & 298/5 (Kl Rahul 142*, Rishabh Pant 101*; James Anderson 2-33) by 165 runs.

About Rishabh Pant
Rishabh Pant moved around from city to city in his early teens to make a name for himself. He switched bases from Roorkee to Delhi to Rajasthan, then returned to Delhi, and was even thrown out of an academy once. A few years down the road, he opened the batting for India in the Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh, smashed a record-breaking fifty against Nepal and followed it up with a century against Namibia to help India qualify for the semi-finals. Incidentally, his century came on the same day when he was bought by Delhi Daredevils for INR 1.9 crores from a base price of Rs 10 lakhs.

A year after making his Ranji Trophy debut at the age of 18 in 2015, Pant broke records by scoring a triple-hundred against Maharashtra and a blistering 48-ball hundred against Jharkhand in the 2016-17 first-class season. In January 2017, he was rewarded with a call-up to India’s T20 squad for the three home matches against England.


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