London : Rohit Sharma’s century drought overseas seemed to be coming to an end on Thursday before England pace bowler James Anderson sneaked one through his defence to rattle his stumps on the first day of the first Test. Sharma, batting on 83 and looking solid at the time, had to return to pavilion with his highest score overseas but still without a century.Sharma, who has shored up India’s top order by putting on strong opening wicket stands ever since he has joined the team as opener has scored seven half-centuries away from home in 22 Tests so far.Prior to the 83 on Thursday, Sharma’s top score abroad was 79 against Sri Lanka in Colombo, made exactly six years ago in August 2015. Before that, Sharma had made 72 against New Zealand in Auckland in February, 2014.However, those knocks were played in the middle-order.Thursday’s knock at Lord’s came at the top of the order, a place where he has established himself recently and helped India post strong starts in recent times.
Sharma, who started opening during the 2019 home series against Bangladesh and South Africa, has started facing the new ball overseas only this year.After missing the first two Tests in Australia in December due to late arrival from India, he played the last two Tests in January and shared two half-century opening stands (of 70 and 71) with Shubman Gill in the third Test in Sydney.He looked good in the fourth and final Test in Brisbane as well scoring 44 in the first innings before failing in the second innings.In the ongoing series in England, he put on a 97-run opening stand in the first innings of the first Test with K.L. Rahul before putting on a century stand (126) with him on Thursday.His success has been a relief for India, whose opening combination had struggled outside Asia over the last decade.Between January 2011 and December 2020, India’s opening pairs couldn’t survive the first 20 overs even once outside Asia.But since the start of 2021, Indian openers have seen off the first 20 overs five times in nine innings overseas — twice in Australia, once in World Test Championship final and twice in the ongoing series in England.