He came, he saw, he conquered.
Rohit Sharma (120, 212b, 15x4, 2x6) turned a blind eye to those baying on about ‘doctored’ wickets and cruised to his maiden Test hundred against Australia at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium. The imperious knock ensured India remained in the driver’s seat at the end of second day’s play, with a lead of 144 runs and three wickets in hand.
This was, in fact, the first time Rohit was taking on the Baggy Green at home; quite literally, Nagpur being his birthplace. That the 35-year-old’s first hundred as skipper of the team came on the 71 st anniversary of India’s first win in the longest format (vs England in Chennai) seems to be divinely preordained.
Rohit’s first fifty came off 66 balls, the second took another 105. He additionally contributed to crucial stands with all-rounders Ravichandran Ashwin (42-run stand) and Ravindra Jadeja (61).
Even when he continued to lose partners at the other end, Rohit remained calm, soaking in all the love that the appreciative crowd here had to offer, and kept chipping away at Australia’s first innings score.
Rohit had a lucky escape in the 345-minute-long stay at crease. A mix-up in the 48 th over with Virat Kohli (12, 26b, 2x4) at the striker’s end may have shortened Rohit’s stay. Rohit, who put in a full-stretch dive, would have later thanked his stars, and maybe also Marnus Labuschagne for a poor throw at the bowler’s end. He was ultimately dismissed by his Aussie counterpart Pat Cummins (18-2-74-1) with the second new ball in the third session, four deliveries after it was taken at the 80-over mark.
Jadeja-Axar frustrate Australia
There is another person who cannot seem to do anything wrong at this point in time. Ravindra Jadeja (66 n.o; 170b, 9x4), who claimed five wickets on day one, made the most of two ‘Umpire’s Call’s in his favour to get to his 18 th Test fifty off 114 balls. The sword celebration was a refreshing sight, more so for the fans who got a glimpse of Jadeja after a five-month absence due to injury.
Joining him in the celebrations only eight overs later, was Axar Patel (52 n.o; 102b, 8x4) who scored his own half-century off 94 balls.
The duo, who will walk unbeaten into the third day, have contributed 81 runs to the team total (321/7) thus far.
It was also a day to remember for debutant Todd Murphy who took up the role of wrecker-in-chief to finish the day with five wickets. The more experienced Nathan Lyon, on this occasion, could only silently wish him well, picking just the wicket of Suryakumar Yadav.
After accounting for opener KL Rahul’s wicket overnight, Murphy removed Ravichandran Ashwin (23, 62b, 2x4, 1x6), Cheteshwar Pujara, and Kohli before sending fellow debutant KS Bharat back to the hut.
Kohli’s was arguably the most shocking dismissal of them all, as one of the best batters in the world got strangled down leg off a delivery that kept surprisingly low right after Lunch. Wicketkeeper Alex Carey did bobble it once but ultimately held on to it.
Meanwhile, Matt Renshaw, who was off the field with an injury he picked up during a warm-up session, returned to bowl one over at the fag end of the day. While that is good news, only the batters can bring the smiles back in the Aussie dugout come Saturday.
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