India 300 for 6 (Rohit Sharma 161, Rahane 67) vs England
A majestic innings in capricious conditions from India opener Rohit Sharma gave the hosts a strong platform at the outset of the second Chennai Test. Rohit counterattacked during a harum-scarum morning session and then settled in to grind England into the dry, cracked clay of the MA Chidambaram Stadium, converting his fourth Test hundred as an opener into a dominant 161.
After Virat Kohli had voiced his dissatisfaction with the pitch produced at Chepauk for the first Test against England, it was no surprise to see the ball turn and spit for the spinners on day one of the rematch. Kohli himself was done in by it, bowled for a fifth-ball duck by the returning Moeen Ali before lunch. But that was the high point of the day for Moeen and England, as Rohit and Ajinkya Rahane produced a bustling century partnership that threatened to be decisive even at such an early stage.
England claimed three early wickets – including one for Olly Stone with his third ball on only his second Test appearance – but were effectively shut out by Rohit and Rahane during the afternoon session, despite regular half-chances coming and going. Again Joe Root was left to rue a lack of control from his spinners: Jack Leach was the more consistent, asking questions throughout the day, while Moeen went at more than four an over, despite picking up the wickets of Kohli and Rahane.
Rohit rode his luck at times, gloving Leach short of slip on 41 and enduring some nervy moments against Moeen in the 90s, but he picked when to attack with judicious care to ensure that India would not squander their in advantage after winning the toss. He skipped along briskly during the early exchanges, scoring 80 from 78 balls before lunch, and kept England toiling long into the day. Such was his dominance that he was visibly frustrated after slog-sweeping Leach to deep backward square leg, having scored almost exactly two-thirds of his side’s 248 for 4.
Rahane showed his quality, too, reaching fifty for the first time since his Boxing Day Test hundred at the MCG. He fell shortly after Rohit, although not before he had controversially been given not out on review when the third umpire failed to check whether a delivery from Leach had bounced up to hit the glove off the pad.
In the next over, Rahane was bowled sweeping at Moeen, and Root himself picked up a wicket when he had R Ashwin stabbing a bat-pad catch to short leg, but with Rishabh Pant bringing out his trusty frying pan to deal with the spitting ball India bounced along to reach 300 in the final over of the day, much to the satisfaction of the home fans who had been allowed back in for this match.
England, whose attack featured three changes from the one that bowled them to victory in the first Test, made a good start after being put into the field, with Stone striking in the second over, Shubman Gill pinned lbw offering no shot. Rohit and Cheteshwar Pujara then played positively during an 85-run partnership at more than four an over, with the former latching on whenever England’s bowlers missed their lengths. Rohit hooked Ben Stokes for six, twice swept Leach for fours to bring up a 47-ball fifty and drilled another boundary to long-on to take India to 100 shortly before the break.
There was plenty of work to do for England’s spinners on day one BCCI
There were early news24nations of turn and the ball disturbing the surface, though, and it was Leach who broke the second-wicket stand when Pujara tamely steered to slip. That brought cheers from the crowd, with Chepauk back at 50% capacity for this game, as Kohli walked out to bat – but they were silenced a few moments later when Moeen tossed up an inviting delivery that ragged back inside the India captain’s expansive drive to ping the off bail.
Kohli was left looking quizzically at his partner, and lingered while the umpires confirmed that the ball had indeed crashed directly into the stumps. But as has often been the case during Moeen’s Test career, he mixed the sublime with the ordinary: his first ball of the day was a full toss, and a similar delivery saw Rahane get off the mark with a drive through cover.
With Rohit sweeping aggressively – he scored six boundaries and 31 runs from the 16 times he employed the shot – and Rahane working the gaps interspersed with the occasional off-side boundary, India held England at bay before pressing home their advantage as the day wore on. Rohit, who survived an early review for lbw against Leach, was occasionally ruffled by the left-arm spinner’s line, while Rahane had to endure some uncomfortable moments against Stone’s short stuff, but as the partnership grew so will England’s sense of foreboding about a surface on which they will have to bat last.
Having moved to 97 by rifling Moeen over long-off for six, Rohit almost toe-ended a paddle sweep to short midwicket, before bringing up his hundred with a more effective attempt a couple of overs later. England thought he should have been given out stumped on 159, but TV umpire Anil Chaudhary gave Rohit the benefit of the doubt despite his back foot seeming to be on the line when Foakes dislodged the bails.
Chaudhary was again the focus of attention once Rohit had departed, when he declined to wind the replay on after determining that the delivery had missed Rahane’s inside edge. England’s review, which had been lost in error, was later restored by the match referee – but their frustration was palpable at the end of a day that clearly distilled the challenge ahead.
Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick