Kolkata: The change in ambience at the Chepauk Stadium between the two Test matches were palpable with at least 15,000 fans being allowed to the stadium on Saturday - and it’s importance was not lost on centurion Rohit Sharma. “It was great fun to have them at the ground. I mean it is something that livens up the whole atmosphere of the stadium,” Sharma told reporters after day’s play. “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.
Sharma, welcomed 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 in Chennai. Officials enforced that the fans wore masks as the cricket-crazy fans soaked in an absorbing day’s action.
“Ajinkya’s knock was crucial to the team and so was our partnership. We had put the team in a comfortable position till tea,” Sharma 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.”
Earlier, Olly Stone had Shubman Gill leg before for a duck in only the second over of the day, but Sharma 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.
Ali bowled Kohli through the gate as the Indian captain stood shocked for a few moments while the TV umpire checked to see if the bail had been dislodged by the wicketkeeper’s gloves.
Leach said England are in the game despite a tough day on the field.
“I think it was definitely a hard day. Stone was back and got an early wicket and Moeen got Kohli out with a magic ball,” Leach told Channel 4.
“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.”