India’s Rohit Sharma celebrates after completing his century against England on day one of their second Test match at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on Saturday. Courtesy: BCCI Twitter
Rohit Sharma’s dazzling century propelled India to 300 for six on day one of the second Test against England at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on Saturday.
Rohit, who paid tribute to the returning crowd after they welcomed his ton with chants of “Rohit! Rohit!”, hit 161 and put on a key fourth-wicket partnership of 162 with Ajinkya Rahane after India -- down 1-0 in the four-match series -- elected to bat first.
Rishabh Pant, on 33, and Axar Patel, on five, were batting at the close of play after England’s bowlers took three wickets in the final session.
Spinners Jack Leach and Moeen Ali claimed two wickets each on a pitch that offered turn even on day one.
Ali bowled skipper Virat Kohli for nought to put India in trouble at 86-3, stunning the raucous 15,000-strong home crowd — present for the first time since the pandemic — into silence. But Rohit’s knock restored the exuberant mood of cheering fans, all of whom backed the home team except for a brave half dozen Barmy Army soldiers.
“It was great fun to have them at the ground. I mean it is something that livens up the whole atmosphere of the stadium,” Rohit told reporters.
“When there was no one at the ground in the first Test, the intensity was slightly low from both the teams... I am happy that they witnessed some good cricket today.”
His seventh Test century was his first against England. When he crossed 150 in his 36th five-day match he got a standing ovation from the ecstatic crowd.
But Leach broke through with his left-arm spin to send Rohit trudging back to the pavilion in the final session after the batsman holed out a catch to deep square leg.
Rohit, who survived a tight stumping chance — given not out by the TV umpire -- off Leach on 159, hit 18 fours and two sixes in his 231-ball stay.
Rahane soon fell to Ali, bowled on another good delivery by the off-spinner for 67. Skipper Joe Root chipped in with his off spin to get Ravichandran Ashwin caught at short leg by Ollie Pope.
“Ajinkya’s knock was crucial to the team and so was our partnership. We had put the team in a comfortable position till tea,” Rohit said.
“I believe 350 would be good score on this pitch and we still have four wickets left. We hope Pant and Axar can score big and get more runs as we know the wicket will turn more on day two, three and four.”
ALI’S MAGIC BALL: Earlier Olly Stone had Shubman Gill leg before for a duck in only the second over of the day, but Rohit and Cheteshwar Pujara steadied the ship with an 85-run second-wicket stand.
But then Leach took Pujara for 21 and Ali’s prized scalp of Kohli left India 106 for three at lunch.
The ball with which Ali bowled Kohli for nought on Saturday was “world class” fellow spinner Leach said at the close of the first day of the second Test.
Ali,recalled for this Test, deceived the Indian captain with a perfect off-spinners’ delivery that pitched outside the off stump and spun sharply between bat and pad. Kohli stood in disbelief. He even asked Rohit at the other end whether the bail came off the wicketkeeper’s glove.
The TV umpire confirmed the ball hit the stumps and Kohli walked back to a stunned silence from a crowd that returned for the first time to Indian grounds in the pandemic.
“It was great to see Moeen do that. It was world class. That was a world-class delivery,” Leach told reporters.
“The ground went silent which is nice to do out here. It was my first experience of an Indian crowd and I have never heard noise like it when he (Kohli) came to the wicket. And then it went very quiet when he got out,” said Leach
“It got a bit easier (to bat) as the ball got older, and you need to get partnerships and that’s something we need to hold on to. We were pleased to get wickets in the end and we’re in the game,” Leach added.
England made four changes from their opening win with Stuart Broad, Ali, Stone and wicketkeeper Ben Foakes making it into the side.
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