Tuesday Sep 11, 2018 | By: AFP
LONDON: Opener KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant both scored centuries to hold up England´s victory charge and give India a sniff of an audacious win on the final day of the fifth test at the Oval on Tuesday.
At tea India were 298-5, needing 166 more runs for victory, with England requiring five wickets to seal a 4-1 series win.
Rahul, whose struggle for runs has undermined India throughout the series, played calmly to take his overnight 46 to 142 by the midafternoon break.
India´s 20-year-old Pant had joined Rahul before lunch, and played superbly to reach a maiden test century from 117 balls.
He reached three figures with a huge six off Adil Rashid shortly before tea, making him the first Indian wicketkeeper to score a test century in England.
Their partnership of 177 brought the victory target below 200, giving India a slim chance of a win and a tantalising final twist in a compelling series.
India began the day on a precarious 58-3 chasing an improbable victory target of 464.Rahul and Ajinkya Rahane survived an early four-over burst from James Anderson who was hunting the one wicket required to move ahead of Australian great Glenn McGrath as the leading paceman wicket-taker in test history.
They were level on 563.The 26-year-old Rahul brought up his first 50 of the series when he turned Anderson off his legs for a boundary in the first over of the day, and he grew in confidence from there on.
On a subdued and murky day after the excitement of England opener Alastair Cook´s farewell test century on Monday, Rahul looked in complete control, although Sam Curran did beat his outside edge on occasions before lunch.
His partnership with Rahane looked secure and was worth 118 when Moeen Ali made the breakthrough to have Rahane caught at mid-wicket for 37 after mistiming a sweep shot.
When Ben Stokes lured Hanuma Vihari into edging behind for a duck in the next over it looked bleak for India.
But Rahul went back on the attack to reach three figures with a flurry of boundaries off Stokes, accelerating from 78 to three figures in the space of nine balls, including a six thrashed over deep extra cover.
His fifth test century, taken off 118 deliveries, came up when he flat-batted a wide Stokes delivery for four -- drawing a warm reception from the sparse Oval crowd.
Pant outscored his partner in the afternoon with some audacious shots.
He reached his maiden test half-century in 78 balls and later struck Stokes for three boundaries in an over as he sniffed a century.
With the pitch offering spin, England skipper Joe Root bowled himself as he sought a breakthrough in the afternoon but chances were few and far between.
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