Kolkata: After a few hits and misses since he joined the Indian team in Australia for the last two Tests, Rohit Sharma once again showed what the longer version of the game had been missing for the better part of his illustrious career.
The senior pro of the Indian team batted the way only he can - with a positive intent, decisive footwork and the virtues of the sweep shot on an ominous Chepauk wicket for his seventh Test century - and easily one of his best on the first day of the second Test against England on Saturday. It was eventually with a mistimed sweep that he fell for a masterly 161, caught by Moeen Ali off the nagging Jack Leach, but the hosts looked at a far better position at 248 for four wickets than they were in the morning session.
As the cricket fraternity waxed eloquent in the social media about Rohit’s innings, former England captain Michael Vaughan summed up the essence of it when he said: “Pure Ton @ImRo45 !! What a player to watch ... like all the great sports people ... he makes it look so simple & easy which it certainly isn’t !!! #INDvsENG.”
If Test cricket is perceived to be the real test of character, then Rohit and Ajinkya Rahane - who was under quite a bit of pressure due to his lean run with the bat since that fighting century in Melbourne - showed it aplenty with a 162-run partnership for the fourth wicket which kept the England bowlers wicketless for the full second session. Rahane fell soon after as Ali claimed the vital wickets of skipper Virat Kohli and then his deputy, but a score of 300 for six wickets at close will leave the hosts in a good space of mind as they are trying to bounce back from an embarrassing defeat in the first Test.
After joining the squad in Australia in January after some unwarranted drama over his fitness, the white ball giant had been hitting the ball well and got a half-century in the third Test in Sydney. However, as it has happened so often in his chequered career, a few shot selections came in the way of the Mumbaikar converting them to big ones - but Rohit was adamant on batting his ‘own way.’
Even when the dice didn’t roll India’s way when they had a double-whammy after choosing to bat on Saturday, having lost the in-form Shubman Gill and Kohli for rare ducks, Rohit did not shy away from an attacking mode. The cover drives and backfoot punches against the pacemen were a delight, while the sweeps against the deceptive Ali and Leach showed that he had put in a lot of thought about his approach in the second Test.
The dismissal came when fter having survived a stumping chance in the previous over off Leach, a tiring Rohit swept him and the mistimed shot low on the bat ballooned into the hands of Ali at deep square leg. A true gem of an innings, which came off 231 deliveries and was studded with 18 boundaries and two sixes.
India (First innings)
R. Sharma c Ali b Leach 161
S. Gill lbw b Stone 0
C. Pujara c Stokes b Leach 21
V. Kohli b Ali 0
A. Rahane b Ali 67
R. Pant not out 33
R. Ashwin c Pope b Root 13
A. Patel not out 5
Total (88 overs, 6 wickets) 300
Fall of wickets: 1-0 (Gill), 2-85 (Pujara), 3-86 (Kohli), 4-248 (Sharma), 5-249 (Rahane), 6-284 (Ashwin)
Bowling: Broad 11-2-37-0, Stone 15-5-42-1, Leach 26-2-78-2, Stokes 2-0-16-0, Ali 26-3-112-2, Root 8-2-15-1
Umpires: Nitin Menon (IND), Virender Sharma (IND)
TV Umpire: Anil Chaudhary (IND)
Match Referee: Javagal Srinath (IND)