India won the toss and initially made the advantage count, despite losing Shubman Gill for a duck. Rohit Sharma raced to his 12th half-century, using the sweep shot to perfection. While the opener looked at home in Chennai, his teammates struggled to cope with the tricky conditions.
England’s spinners were in the game from the start, and their disciplined approach on a turning Chennai track paid dividends. Moeen Ali got the prized wicket of Virat Kohli with a corker, after Jack Leach had sent Pujara packing.
Brief scores: India 106/3 (Rohit Sharma 80*, Cheteshwar Pujara 21) against England (Olly Stone 1/14, Jack Leach 1/23) in 26 overs
India started the day in disastrous circumstances, losing Shubman Gill in the 2nd over of the day. The young opener didn’t offer a shot to an incoming delivery from Olly Stone and was caught plumb in front of the stumps.
But the hosts recovered from the initial shock as Pujara and Rohit went about their business. The opener came into the 2nd Test under pressure but answered his doubters in style.
Rohit Sharma in a class of his own
Rohit Sharma was particularly impressive against Stuart Broad. He didn’t allow the England pacer to settle, as he drove him superbly on multiple occasions. Rohit Sharma then welcomed Ben Stokes with a boundary before pulling him gloriously for a six and a four in his 2nd over.
It was Jack Leach’s turn next, and his battle with Rohit Sharma was an interesting one. He got him out with a jaffa last time out, and Leach persisted with the same line to Rohit. While the opener was solid in defence, he brought out the sweep to unsettle Leach.
Rohit Sharma got to his 50 with a similar sweep to mid-wicket, getting to the milestone in just 47 balls. The batsman looked in control on Day 1, remaining on top of the challenge posed by the turning wicket.
England’s spinners fight back against India
While Stuart Broad didn’t impress, England’s spinners were in the game from ball one. With puffs of dust and patches already visible on the pitch, both Jack Leach and Moeen Ali had their moments.
The duo got Rohit Sharma to edge one to slip on a couple of occasions, but the batsman survived after the ball fell just short of Ben Stokes.
England got third time lucky, as Cheteshwar Pujara was dismissed in a similar fashion. India’s No.3 poked at a delivery that just gripped and turned, with Ben Stokes completing a smart catch at slip.
Moeen Ali has a stellar record against India, and he didn’t take long to show why he has been picked ahead of Dominic Bess. He bowled a beauty that beat Virat Kohli all ends up. The ball pitched outside off and turned in sharply before hitting the top of off stump.
Perplexed by the wicket, Kohli stood his ground, unsure of what had happened. But a quick check by the third umpire confirmed the inevitable, and India’s skipper walked back for his 11th Test duck.
Rattled by the double blow, India focussed on making it to lunch without further damage. The hosts did just that and will now use the break to regroup. India will rely on Rohit and Rahane to stitch together a significant partnership, with Day 1 likely to be the best time to bat in this Test.
England wouldn’t be too disappointed, having lost the toss. Their spinners have started brightly, and Olly Stone’s express pace will always be a threat. England will target Rohit Sharma’s wicket as they look to peg India back further post-Lunch.
Published 13 Feb 2021, 12:00 IST
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