A majestic 161 from Rohit Sharma powered India to a commanding 300-6 on the opening day of the second test at Chepauk. It was a big day in the context of the series with India needing to win at least two of the remaining three fixtures to earn a spot in the final of the World Test Championship. Here are four talking points from day one:
The pitch heading into this crucial second fixture was hyped up to be spin-friendly, and it did not disappoint. While the average ball tuned 3.3 degrees on day one of the first test, the corresponding figure in the first half of today’s play was 4.5 degrees. With Pujara edging Leach to first slip and skipper Kohli being bowled through the gate by a peach from Moeen, England had the early advantage before Sharma and Rahane arguably batted England out of the contest.
The surface is already kicking up puffs of dust and as time goes on, it will offer further assistance to the spinners. England will have their hands full when they come out to bat, especially when they bat last on this deteriorating wicket.
Kohli does not get out cheaply to spin. However, when Moeen bowled him through the gate, he became the first spinner in international cricket to dismiss the Indian captain for a duck.
It’s quite possible that Kohli was trying to compensate for his bat-pad dismissal to Dom Bess in the first innings of the first test. On that occasion, he came forward to a ball pitching in the “danger zone” on a fifth stump line. Despite taking a decent stride in, he didn’t get to the pitch of the ball and decided to dead bat it only for the ball to catch the inside edge onto the pad and loop up to short leg.
Today, he received a delivery from Moeen around the same line and length. Unlike the first test, Kohli attempted to reach for the ball and smother the spin with a drive through the covers. Unfortunately, he was unable to get to the pitch of the ball, playing inside of it due to the dip that Moeen — to his credit —imparted on the delivery, and was bowled for a big fat zero.
Rohit’s home dominance continues
After his 161, Rohit Sharma has raised his average at home to a near Bradmanesque 83.55. We’re not exaggerating when we mention him in the same breath as Bradman either.
The only batsman to average more in any one country – with a minimum qualification of 20 innings — is the Great Don himself, who averaged 98.22 in Australia and 102.84 in England.
Had it not been for the Hitman, India wouldn’t have enjoyed their lunch nearly as much as they probably did. At the conclusion of the morning session, India were 106/3 after 26 overs with the Hitman contributing a remarkable 80 off just 78 deliveries.
With England favoring their spinners in the final two sessions, his last 81 runs came off 153 deliveries, demonstrating his growing maturity as a red ball opener. Despite not scoring heavily in the Border Gavaskar Trophy, he looked technically sound against the Cummins-Hazlewood duo inspiring faith that he will narrow the 58.55 run differential between his home and away batting averages.
England’s bowling composition
Despite dismissing both Kohli and Rahane, Moeen leaked runs 112 runs in his 26 overs at 4.31 as Rohit Sharma swept him into oblivion. Rahane too, before his dismissal, was able to get Moeen away for boundaries by charging down the track only to hang back off the very next delivery and punch him through the covers.
Although Jack Leach had yet another impressive outing, England were forced to persist with the expensive off-spinner in the absence of any assistance for their quicks.
In an ideal world, a third specialist spinner could have given the English attack more bite. However, the only way they could have included someone like Bess in the XI would have been through dropping Lawrence and perhaps pushing Moeen Ali up to three. That would have been risky for England given Bess’ recent struggles with hitting a consistent length.
Despite all this, Root was hesitant to give himself a bowl until late in the day. The fact that he finished as England’s most economical bowler, while also picking up the wicket of Ashwin off a bat-pad dismissal, suggests that he under-bowled himself.
We may see the English skipper in action right from the outset on day two, but given the nature of this worsening wicket, Root’s delay in bringing himself on may come back to haunt him.