Nagpur: pener Rohit Sharma scored a majestic hundred, his first as Test captain, while all-rounders Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel struck fighting unbeaten half-centuries as India reached 321/7 at stumps to take a 144-run lead against Australia on Day 2 of the first Test of the four-match Border-Gavaskar Trophy series, here on Friday.
At the close of play at the VCA Stadium here, Jadeja was batting on 66 while Axar Patel was keeping him company with 52 runs as India scored 244 runs in the day, losing six wickets, setting themselves to go for victory in the next three days.
Rohit scored his first century since September 2021, his ninth overall by lofting Murphy for a boundary, his ton came off 171 balls and was studded with 14 fours and two sixes. He was out in the first over after tea, his opposite number Pat Cummins sending his off-stump cartwheeling with the second new ball.
Rohit’s 345-minute vigil at the wicket fetched him 120 runs and his innings was studded with 15 boundaries and two sixes.
Jadeja, who claimed 5-47 to help India dismiss Australia for 177 in their first innings, and Axar Patel took over from there on, adding 81 runs for the unfinished eighth-wicket partnership as they propelled India past the 300-run mark. Jadeja completed his half-century off 114 balls, hitting seven boundaries. Patel achieved the milestone off 94 balls and struck eight fours.
It was an engrossing and enthralling day as both sides tried to take control of the proceedings. Every time India tried to press home the advantage, Australia claimed a wicket or two to peg them back. Debutant Todd Murphy (5-82) claimed his maiden five-wicket haul in his debut Test and troubled the Indian batters throughout the day. The rookie off-spinner bowled a fine line and length at the right pace.
However, Australia will rue the five chances they dropped in the Indian innings.
Rohit played one of his best innings as he held the Indian innings together with a majestic effort. He was cautious, played the spinners with soft hands, used his feet and read the line and bounce perfectly. This was his ninth century in Test cricket and came after a long period of drought going back to September 2021. It was also his first as India captain and second at the VCA Stadium after an unbeaten 102 against Sri Lanka in 2017.
Though there were a few anxious moments and close calls — edges flew just wide of the fielders on a couple of occasions — he kept one end intact even as he lost partners like Ashwin, with whom he shared a 42-run stand, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Suryakumar, all three not staying at the wicket for long. He completed his century with a lofted boundary off Murphy off 171 deliveries as India marched past Australia’s first-innings score of 177.
The 35-year-old, who was born in Bansod, near Nagpur, started aggressively on Thursday morning, completing the first fifty of his century in 66 deliveries. His second fifty was sedate and more measured and came off 105 deliveries.
India crossed the 200-run milestone in the 71st over and went for tea at 226/5, adding 75 runs in the second session.
The Indian skipper got the only life of his innings in the first over after tea when his opposite number Pat Cummins forced a thick edge with the second new ball that Steve Smith failed to grasp at the second slip. But it did not matter much as Cummins bowled an even better delivery next up and sent Rohit’s off-stump cartwheeling, with one moved just a bit, passed through the gap between the bat and pad.
Apart from Rohit, India also lost the wicket of Srikar Bharat post tea break but hosts were able to score 95 runs in the last session of the day.
Earlier in the morning, Ashwin, sent in as night watchman after K.L Rahul was out in the penultimate over before stumps on Thursday, did his job well as he survived the first hour, helping skipper Rohit Sharma to keep the scoreboard ticking.
He struck a boundary each off Nathan Lyon and Pat Cummins and slog-sweeping Lyon over deep mid-wicket for a six as he survived a few close calls including a big lbw appeal in the 27th over before getting out for 23, trapped lbw off Todd Murphy.
The ball pitched on the middle and leg from round the wicket and turned in, missing the inside edge by a whisker and striking the front pad. Ashwin had not taken a bit step forward and though the umpire gave him not out, Australia reviewed and got the wicket.
Pujara (7, 14 balls, 1×4) was looking his usual cautious self before he tried to hit a loose ball outside leg from Murphy but could only top-edge it to Scott Boland at short fine-leg.
Rohit and Kohli took India to lunch with India 151/3 with the Indian skipper going strong on 81.
Kohli fell on the first ball after lunch, offering a thick edge behind off a loose delivery by Murphy as the rookie Aussie off-spinner claimed his fourth wicket of the match as India fell to 151/4, still a few runs behind Australia’s first innings total of 177. And when Suryakumar Yadav could manage only eight runs in his debut Test, India were 168/5, still nine runs behind the visitors.
Pujara’s wicket, along with that of Virat Kohli after the afternoon session was a big blow for India as they could have helped the team reach a stronger position in the match.
However, Rohit and Jadeja added 61 runs for the sixth wicket and then Jadeja and Patel raised another half-century partnership for the eighth wicket to take India past the 300-run mark and in control of the match.
Brief scores: Australia 177 v India 321/7 in 114 overs (Rohit Sharma 120, Ravindra Jadeja batting 66, Axar Patel batting 52; Todd Murphy 5-82). India lead by 144 runs.