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Sublime Rohit Sharma Stamps his Class on a Tricky Pitch

By: Vineet Ramakrishnan


Last Updated: February 10, 2023, 17:22 IST

Nagpur, India

Rohit Sharma scored his first century as India's Test captain on a tricky surface (AP Image)

Rohit Sharma scored his first century as India's Test captain on a tricky surface (AP Image)

Rohit Sharma displayed his class as he batted like a dream on a difficult pitch and became the first Indian to score a century as captain in all three formats.

During his knock of 120 on Day 2 of the 1st Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, Rohit Sharma seldom played a false shot and the one real chance that he gave his opposition during his sublime knock came only in the 81st over of the Indian innings when Pat Cummins, with the new ball, and a new vigour, got the line and length spot on, inducing the Indian captain to push one away from his body. The low catch though was grassed by Steve Smith at second slip.

Cummins, who had figures of 11-2-50-0 before he took the new ball, probably had one of his worst days yesterday in terms of his bowling, and the morning and post-lunch sessions on Friday was not any better. But, being the cricketer that he is, Cummins produced a ripper of a delivery to knock over Sharma’s off pole – a dramatic finish with a cartwheel and all, and Smith was the most relieved man on the pitch and Cummins finally let out a weary smile.

India vs Australia 1st Test Day 2 Highlights

However, up till that moment, Rohit was the king, he batted like a dream on a difficult pitch. And it needed a special delivery to end the special knock.

The Border-Gavaskar Trophy is a test for Rohit the opener as much as it is a test of his captaincy. Remember, after taking over the Test captaincy, Sharma has missed more games than he has played (3 out of 5). As a player, he had not played a Test match since March 2022, largely owing to niggling injuries and some bit of it workload management.

So, in essence, Sharma had a lot to prove with the bat as well… rather needed a big score to reassure himself at the top, especially with India ignoring Shubman Gill, who opened in the absence of both KL Rahul and Sharma on different occasions, for this Test.

After Cummins’ poor spell on Thursday evening allowed Sharma to get off the blocks early, he had to reset on Day 2. Sharma was up to the task and batted like a man on a mission. Even as debutant Todd Murphy looked more and more menacing, Sharma was calculated in his approach. Barring a couple of near mixes ups – one with Ravichandran Ashwin and the other with Virat Kohli, Sharma never looked rushed.

Cummins largely operated on a back of length zone, but Rohit stoned walled the good ones. Nathan Lyon and Murphy stuck to a good line and got the occasional delivery to sputter some venom. Sharma curtailed his attacking instincts there negotiated the two tweakers without giving away much.

It was only when Cummins tried a short pitch delivery with two men back that Rohit swirled and pulled one over deep square leg to take his second six of the innings – his first boundary shot of the day, seven overs in.

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Sharma was quick to use his feet and counter Lyon’s loopy delivery, allowing it no time to deviate off the pitch. He was equally assured enough to take his front foot ahead and plonk Murphy’s quicker ones, even though there were enough variations that would have troubled others. And it did.

Nightwatchman Ashwin – even though he is a far more accomplished batter in Tests – was undone by the one that turned back in from round the wicket. A reward for Murphy’s persistence and tight lines. The debutant though got lucky with his next two dismissals, with Pujara’s half-hearted attempt at sweep off a legside delivery going straight to short fine and Kohli ending up feathering another one down the leg to wicketkeeper Alex Carey.

Lyon also bothered Rohit with a couple of close calls for LBW and once almost popped a return catch, pushing a length ball early; but these moments came few and far in between. What came often was his roll of the wrist manoeuvring the ball away from the fielders and finding the gaps. When Murphy and Lyon overpitched or strayed, Rohit ensured he got the maximum returns with some crisp drives.

During the practice sessions ahead of the match, Rohit was trying a lot of sweeps and reverse sweeps, but he hardly had to execute any today. Playing in the ‘V’ with supple wrists and strong bottom hand, he got to his 9th Test hundred. His scoring shot to reach the hundred – using his feet to reach the pitch of the delivery a lofting over mid-off nonchalantly, was a microcosm of his entire innings. Languid, yet calculated.

With the landmark, he became only the 4th player to score a century in all three formats as a skipper.

Ever since Rohit Sharma started opening in Tests (from 2019), he has been India’s best Test player – with most runs (1672) and best average (57.65 – cut off min. 5 matches). Overall, he has the second-best average among openers, only being Australia’s Usman Khawaja (64.87 – mins. 1000 runs).

Rohit has done his bit with the bat, and India amassing a lead of 144 courtesy Rohit’s near flawless innings and equally brilliant counter-attacking knocks from Ravindra Jadeja (66*) and Axar Patel (52*), Rohit the captain will breathe a bit easy.

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first published:February 10, 2023, 17:18 IST
last updated:February 10, 2023, 17:22 IST