Lokesh Rahul said Sunday that the Chennai pitch might break and make life difficult for batsmen after his career-best 199 steered India’s strong reply against England on day three of the fifth Test. Rahul shared a crucial fourth-wicket 161-run stand with Karun Nair (71 not out) to make the England bowlers toil on a seemingly flat deck at Chennai’s MA Chidambaram Stadium. India were 391 for four at stumps with Nair and Murali Vijay (17) at the crease. The hosts still trail by 86 runs in response to England’s 477. “Hopefully by the end of tomorrow or the fifth day the wicket might break, there are footmarks there,” Rahul, who looked visibly upset after missing out on 200, told reporters on Sunday. “We did see that (Liam) Dawson and Moeen Ali were trying to bowl in the rough. Few balls did turn and bounce so its important for us to get back tomorrow and get some runs,” he said. Rahul, who recorded his fourth Test century, was the ninth batsman in the world to get out on 199 after falling to leg-spinner Adil Rashid in the final moments of the day. The 24-year-old batsman chased Rashid’s widish delivery on the off-side to give away a catch to point as he crumpled into a heap with hands on head. “I’ve never been somebody who has chased landmarks but getting a 200 will always be a proud moment for a batsman and I’m gutted that I missed out,” he said.
Earlier Rahul, whose 12-match career has been hampered by injuries, had surpassed his previous best of 158 as he entertained a raucous home crowd with a couple of reverse sweeps. He struck 16 fours and 3 sixes during his marathon knock, prompting England skipper Alastair Cook to rotate his bowling options. The tourists took the second new ball in the 85th over of the innings but Rahul and Nair made sure that India continued to mount the runs. Nair recorded his maiden Test fifty in just his third match to play the perfect sheet anchor role as Rahul piloted the Indian innings till his departure. “Look it’s very important for us, if we have to make a match out of this, to get a good lead. And the wicket is kind of playing really good so far,” said Rahul.
– India’s opening stand –
England pacemen Ben Stokes and Stuart Broad worked hard to claim two crucial wickets of Cheteshwar Pujara (16) and skipper Virat Kohli (15) in the afternoon session. It was the first time in the series that Kohli, who leads the batting chart with 655 runs, had been out for less than 40. He chipped a drive to extra cover off Broad. Overnight batsmen Parthiv Patel and Rahul made England’s bowlers toil earlier in the day with a 152-run opening stand, before Moeen Ali’s off-spin prised out Patel – the only wicket of the morning session. It was India’s first century opening stand in 32 innings and their best at home against England even though wicketkeeper Patel was filling in for regular opener Vijay, who got treated for a bruised shoulder before coming into bat. “I think we tried a lot but sometimes you got to hold your hands up and say the partnership that they had throughout the day… they played really well,” said Stokes who got the wicket of Pujara. “So yes that’s probably our aim tomorrow to try and restrict them and not try and let them get too far ahead… We want to walk away with a win and go away with our heads held high,” said Stokes. India hold an unassailable 3-0 lead in the five-Test series.