After all the talk about the advantage that came with winning the toss in the first Test, the coin flip this time around was something everyone was looking forward to. While the toss went England’s way last week, it came out in India’s favour on this occasion and the home team’s captain Virat Kohli had no hesitation in opting to bat first.
In the action that followed on day one of the second Test at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, Rohit Sharma turned out to be the star of the show, with his excellent century propelling India to 300/6 at the end of day’s play.
DESPITE FALL OF WICKETS, ROHIT BATS WITH INTENT
When England announced their 12 for this Test on Friday (12 February 2021), the main talking point was which one of Olly Stone and Chris Woakes would miss out as the other 10 players were almost certain to play. In the end, Stone who was selected over the more experienced Woakes and the Norwich-born pacer began superbly, taking the wicket of Shubman Gill off just his third delivery. Gill was struck on his front pad after opting to shoulder his arms to a delivery that came towards him. The Indian opener perhaps expected the ball to move away and his misjudgement was costly as the home side lost their first wicket with no runs on the board.
Rohit started well, especially finding success early on when the England pacers bowled full to him. He batted aggressively, reaching his half-century in just 47 deliveries. At the other end, Cheteshwar Pujara was solid and was playing a good supporting role, but just as India seemed to be ending the first session well, he was caught at slip off the bowling of Jack Leach. India's number three would be disappointed to have not kicked on after getting a start.
In the following over, there were more woes for the hosts as Kohli was bowled by Moeen Ali for a duck. The England off-spinner got sharp turn and beat the inside edge of Kohli's bat. The Indian skipper, who looked to play an expansive drive, was in disbelief after seeing the stumps disturbed.
Meanwhile, such was Rohit’s brilliance in the morning session that he scored 80 out of India's 106 runs before lunch.
ROHIT, RAHANE PARTNERSHIP PUTS INDIA IN FRONT
Rohit then went on to bring up a marvellous century, the seventh of his Test career and his first against England in the format. On a tricky pitch, Rohit was sensational, reaching the three-figure mark in only 130 deliveries. He was well supported by Rahane, who came into the Test under some pressure after failing to get big scores in his last three Tests.
While there were the odd deliveries that troubled Rohit and Rahane, the duo looked in control for most of their partnership in the post-lunch session. It was a crucial stand considering two wickets fell within seven deliveries before these two batsmen came together.
Not changed my opinion about Rohit Sharma from 3 years ago ... https://t.co/ucuKp2oQNz— Nasser Hussain (@nassercricket) February 13, 2021
Since the start of 2017 until before this Test, Ajinkya Rahane averaged only 35.21 in Tests in India. Combine that with his recent form, there was some criticism of his batting heading into this match. Under such circumstances, Rahane produced a fine knock, notching up his 35th 50+ score in Tests.
At the other end, Rohit slowed down a bit after having employed an aggressive approach earlier in his innings. He had a close escape when a tight stumping call went in his favour, but he didn't last long at the crease after that. Going for a big sweep shot, he was caught at the square leg boundary for 161. It was a well-deserved wicket for Leach, who bowled well through the day. 39.7% of the deliveries that Leach bowled on Saturday (13 February 2021) were projected to hit the stumps, which shows how disciplined he was with his bowling.
Rohit’s knock, combined with his 162-run partnership with Rahane, has given India a great platform in this Test.
REVIEW CONFUSION FOLLOWED BY ENGLAND FIGHTBACK
There was a moment of controversy after England reviewed a bat-pad catch against Rahane, taken by forward short leg. The on-field call was not out and the third umpire, after looking at the replay and ultra-edge, stayed with the original decision. The issue was that the TV umpire had only seen the replay until the ball hit the pads after missing the bat initially. If he had carried on, he would have clearly noticed that after the ball struck the pads, it went on to hit Rahane's gloves. Unsurprisingly, Joe Root was furious with what had occurred. Later on, England were handed this review back.
How can a third umpire not look at that?!?! 🤦🏻♂️— Glenn Maxwell (@Gmaxi_32) February 13, 2021
That decision, though, didn't prove to be too expensive for the away side as Rahane was dismissed for 67 by Ali in the next over, adding just one run after that review. While Ali has been expensive thus far, he has got two crucial wickets in this innings.
Root, who many feel should bowl more, then took the wicket of Ravichandran Ashwin. While England fought back with these wickets in the post-tea session, India will be quite pleased with their batting performance on day one, especially considering the nature of the pitch.
Rishabh Pant holds the key for the hosts now. The wicketkeeper-batsman is unbeaten on 33 and, if he can score big tomorrow, then India will give themselves a really good chance of a win in this Test. Batting at the other end is Axar Patel, who is making his Test debut and is one of three players – Kuldeep Yadav and Mohammed Siraj being the others – who have been drafted into the playing XI for this game.
(Image Courtesy – BCCI)