‘Hitman’ shows class, helps India seize initiative

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Rohit Sharma
India's Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane during the 2nd test match against England at MA Chidambaram Stadium, in Chennai (Photo: ANI)

Chennai: Rohit Sharma oozed class with an aesthetically pleasing 161 on a challenging track, helping India seize the initiative with a solid opening day score of 300 for 6 against England in the second cricket Test here on Saturday.

Ajinkya Rahane looked equally attractive during his knock of 67 off 149 balls and the two Mumbaikars added 162 runs for the fourth wicket, making it worth the effort for the 12,000 who flocked the Chepauk as Indian cricket welcomed its fans back in the stadium amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The key was to use good footwork. We had the strategy (on the sweep shot), we did discuss the game plan on this, and wanted to make them bowl to our strengths, good that the plans came off,” Rahane said at the end of day’s play.

A score of 350 plus in the first innings will be equivalent to 550 plus on any other track and Rishabh Pant’s (33 batting) dangerous presence could also take India well beyond the magic figure on this track. At stumps, he had debutant Axar Patel (5) for company.

Rohit had scored six Test hundreds prior to this knock but he will be the first to admit that in terms of conditions on offer and the quality of attack he faced, the seventh one would be at the top of the list.

On a hot Saturday, Rohit did two things at one go. Firstly, he put India in a commanding position on a track which was way more difficult for batting than he made it look with 18 fours and two sixes in his 231-ball knock. Secondly, he silenced his critics. The team is aiming for a comeback after a crushing 227-run loss in the first Test.

Joe Root was marvellous with his sweep shot during the first Test but Rohit was simply magnificent with his execution on a doubly difficult track on which he gave England spinner Moeen Ali (26-3-112-3) a lesson in controlled aggression.

His big front-foot stride outside the off-stump to sweep deliveries off both Moeen and Jack Leach (26-2-78-2) was of the highest class.

Skipper Virat Kohli (0) was done in by a classical off-spinner’s delivery from Moeen — flighted outside the off-stump and enticing him to go for a cover drive only to find his defence breached while Shubman Gill was sent back by Olly Stone in the second over.

Rahane was no less classy in his drives — the front and back-foot punches off the pacers and those lovely cut shots off the spinners were delightful to watch before choosing a wrong delivery from Moeen for playing the sweep and was bowled in the process.

“It is a difficult track where you don’t know whether to come forward or remain on the back-foot,” Sunil Gavaskar, who knows more than a thing or two about batting on turners, said on air.

Third umpire Anil goofs up

Chennai: In a rare incident, an umpire’s Decision Review System (DRS) referral was on Saturday restored to England after an error on the part of the third umpire, Anil Chaudhary, on the first day of the second Test against India at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium here.

On the second ball of the 75th over, bowled by left-arm spinner Jack Leach, Ajinkya Rahane gloved it to the forward short-leg fielder. India were 248 for four wickets and Rahane was on 66.

While the England players appealed, the umpire declared ‘not out’. On review, the snickometre showed no spike as the ball went past the inside edge of the bat.

The third umpire declared the batsman not out. However, the umpire did not watch the entire replay that later showed the ball popping up and brushing Rahane’s gloves while going to the short-leg fielder.

The decision meant that Rahane got a ‘life’, and England lost another of their three reviews.

They had already lost one in the first session. Rahane added one more run after umpire’s error and was out for 67 off 149 balls.

The decision sparked a huge outburst on twitter. The third umpire later restored the review.