Rahul played with elegance for 127 not out, growing in stature following his supporting role in an opening stand of 126 with Rohit Sharma, who made a superb 83 at Lord’s.
With India captain Virat Kohli adding 42 in a third-wicket partnership of 117 with Rahul, India moved to 276-3 and in a prime position to take complete control of the match.
James Anderson – passed fit to play – produced two excellent deliveries to remove Rohit and Cheteshwar Pujara, while Ollie Robinson provided a late boost with the wicket of Kohli.
However, the home side were collectively poor with the ball and, as the clouds gave way to evening sunshine, batting looked increasingly comfortable on a true pitch.
England were aided by the rain in the drawn first Test at Trent Bridge. The London weather is forecast to be dry for the weekend, so the hosts will need their batsmen – including Haseeb Hameed, recalled for Zak Crawley – to dig them out of this one.
It was hard to disagree with England captain Joe Root when he opted to bowl first on a cool, grey, damp morning. Kohli said he would have done the same.
However, while it is fair to say England did not get the amount of assistance they might have expected, rarely did they find the right area, alternating between too wide and too straight.
Credit should be given to Rohit and Rahul, who came through what could have been a difficult period with sound judgement, only playing when absolutely necessary.
After Stuart Broad was ruled out for the series with a calf injury, Anderson overcame a quad problem to produce his double strike in the run-up to tea.
By that time, though, India had built a strong foundation and it would look even more ominous for England had Robinson not struck.
Still, India will be looking to heap pressure on England by batting for most of Friday. (Courtesy BBC)