Rohit Sharma slams sparkling century as Indian fans return

Rohit Sharma slams sparkling century as Indian fans return

14 February 2021 03:42 pm

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A sparkling 161 by Rohit Sharma brought the smiles back to returning Indian cricket fans on the opening day of the second Test in Chennai although England hit back in the final session to reduce the hosts to 300 for 6 on earlier today.

Rishabh Pant, on 33, and Axar Patel, on five, were batting at close of play as some 15,000 fans at M.A. Chidambaram Stadium had something to cheer about after India were thrashed by 227 runs in the opening game at the same venue a few days ago.

Spinners Jack Leach and Moeen Ali claimed two wickets each on a pitch that offered turn from as early as day one. 

India, who trail the four-Test series 1-0, were in trouble at 86 for three when Ali bowled skipper Virat Kohli through the gate for a five-ball duck after they elected to bat first.

Olly Stone claimed his first Test wicket since July 2019 with his third ball of the morning,  Shubman Gill being pinned lbw offering no shot, but Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara steadied the ship with an 85-run second-wicket stand.

Then Leach removed Pujara for 21 and Ali marked his Test return with a beauty that left the Indian captain dumbfounded for a few moments before walking off to stunned silence.

It wasn't just the batsman who couldn't believe what had happened: the umpire called for a review to check if the bail had been dislodged by the wicketkeeper's gloves even as Moeen celebrated his first wicket since getting Tim Paine at Edgbaston in 2019. 

This was only the fourth time that Kohli had been bowled by a spinner in Tests.

Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane, who made 67, revived the Indian innings with a fourth-wicket stand of 162. 

It's the first time that Rahane reached 50 since his knock at the MCG in December, and only his second half-century in 15 Test innings going back to 2019.

However, India’s most prolific batsman in all three formats of the game, Sharma hooked Ben Stokes for six, twice swept Leach for fours to bring up a 47-ball fifty and drilled another boundary to long-on to take India to 100 shortly before the lunch break.

Having scored at a brisk pace during the morning session, Rohit calmed down to bring up his seventh Test hundred in the afternoon from 130 balls. After a couple of nervous moments against Moeen in the 90s, he eventually got to the landmark with a paddled sweep.

The opener hit his seventh Test century -- and first against England -- and crossed 150 in his 36th Test to a standing ovation from the ecstatic crowd.

But Sharma fell in the final session holing out a catch to deep square leg off left arm spinner Leach after having hit 18 fours and two sixes in his 231-ball stay.

Remarkably, Sharma has made 19 hundreds in 106 innings in international cricket since 2018 -- four Test centuries in 21 innings, 13 in 49 ODI innings and two in 36 T20I innings. 

In comparison Kohli has 18 hundreds in 120 international innings and Pakistan skipper Babar Azam ten in 103 innings during this period. 

Incidentally both Kohli and Babar Azam are both yet to score a century in T20Is. 

Australia’s David Warner is the only one among the four to hit a century in all three formats like Sharma since 2018.

India lost three wickets in the final session as skipper Joe Root chipped in with his off spin to get Ravichandran Ashwin caught at short leg by Ollie Pope.

England made four changes from their opening win with Stuart Broad, Ali, Stone and wicketkeeper Ben Foakes making it into the side.

India handed left-arm spinner Axar Patel his Test debut and brought in paceman Mohammed Siraj and left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav in for this game.