India 391 for 4 (Rahul 199, Nair 71*, Parthiv 71) trail England 477 by 86 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Chopra: Rahul's conversion rate impressive
KL Rahul scored his 4th Test century and first in India in the 5th Test in Chennai.
KL Rahul fell one short of a maiden double-hundred after leading India's response to England's 477 in excellent batting conditions at the MA Chidambaram Stadium. India dominated the first and third sessions of day three, thanks to two big partnerships involving Rahul: 152 for the first wicket with Parthiv Patel, and 161 for the fourth with Karun Nair. At stumps, India trailed by 86 with six wickets in hand, with Nair batting on 71. With him on 17 was M Vijay, who came in at No. 6 rather than his customary position at the top of the order because of a shoulder injury sustained while fielding.
Having been at the crease for more than 100 overs, Rahul fell with stumps imminent. He walked off distraught, after reaching for a loopy, wide ball from Adil Rashid and spooning a catch to cover point, but by then he had ensured India were the likeliest of the two sides to force a win over the last two days.
The draw, though, still seemed the likeliest result. It took until the 102nd over of India's innings for England to call for their first review (another followed in the very next over; both were unsuccessful), indicating how friendly conditions were to bat in. But given the skill of India's spinners, they may yet coax more life out of the Chepauk soil than their England counterparts.
Rahul has had a stop-start series, missing the first and third Tests with injury, and had only made a top score of 24 in his three previous innings. He had been out to loose shots in all three innings, and he made at least one noticeable adjustment here, standing with his feet either side of the crease against the seamers rather than outside it. Perhaps the extra time this gave him allowed him to judge his off stump better, and he was far more certain when tested in the corridor.
But his best work came against the spinners, against whom he laid down an early statement of intent, hitting Liam Dawson for sixes in the third and fifth overs of the morning. He continued to use his feet decisively thereafter, and reverse-swept with authority. Rahul's mastery of the spinners played a big part in Rashid and Moeen Ali ending day three with a combined economy rate of 4.19 across 41 overs. Dawson, who offered more control but less of a wicket threat, bowled 23 overs, getting through more work than Alastair Cook may have wanted from his left-arm spinner.
Nair joined his Karnataka team-mate Rahul at 211 for 3, after India had lost three wickets for 59 runs. This mini-slump began before lunch, with the wicket of Parthiv. Both openers had scored freely - at a run-rate of 3.63 overall, and at 4.21 on the third morning - and had looked in no trouble, with Parthiv playing some stunning straight and on-drives, showing the full face of his bat, off Stuart Broad. Then, having entered the 70s for the first time in his Test career, he fell in a moment of overconfidence. Having stepped out and whipped Moeen Ali over wide mid-on two balls previously, Parthiv left his crease again. This time, the ball drifted in a touch further, making him aim squarer and close his bat face. It also turned more, and looped to cover off the leading edge.
On a pitch that offered them little help, England's seamers took the key wickets of Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli. Pujara had begun ominously, hitting Adil Rashid for two fours in one over, but fell to an uncharacteristic shot in the third over after lunch, poking at a shortish, fifth-stump ball from Ben Stokes and edging to slip.
Then Stuart Broad sent back Kohli, who hadn't been dismissed for under 40 in his seven previous innings in this series, for 15. With Broad moving around the wicket and slanting the ball across him, Kohli had looked intent on putting bat to ball, leaving only occasionally, more often moving across his stumps to defend punchily into the off side. Then Broad slipped in a full, wide slower legcutter. Failing to spot the change of pace, Kohli drove early and into the lap of short cover.
Rahul, who had by then moved to his fourth Test hundred, made a strategic retreat once Kohli fell, quietly picking up the runs offered to him by England's defensive fields and cutting out the reverse-sweep entirely. Every now and then, he reminded England of his range of strokes: an inside-out drive through the covers off Rashid, a ramp over the slips when Stokes banged it short, and a beautifully placed flick off the legs, off Joe Root, when he deigned to bowl to him without a deep square leg.
That shot brought up Rahul's 150, in the 83rd over of India's innings. England took the new ball two overs later, and the runs flowed quicker. Both batsmen sent edges flying through the slips - a loose drive from Nair was edged close enough to Cook at first slip to count as a half-chance - but there were also some pretty shots: a square-cut from Rahul off Broad, and a straight drive from Nair, also off the same bowler. This was the second time he had hit him in that direction, though this time it was the full-faced version rather than the wristy whip that had brought him his first boundary, before tea.
India scored 35 runs in the eight overs that Broad and Jake Ball bowled with the second new ball, and continued to score quickly when the spinners returned. Nair reverse-slapped Moeen to the point boundary, then Rahul launched him for a straight six. A swept four off Rashid took him to 199, before he played, as he later put it, "a horrible shot".