Sports, Cricket

Rohit and Gill centuries lay the base for India's show of dominance

Published : 08 Mar 2024 09:31 PM
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India took the scenic route to a match-dominating position in the Dharamsala Test, batting throughout the second day to amass a lead of 255 over England with two wickets still standing. There were hundreds for Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill, fifties for Sarfaraz Khan and the debutant Devdutt Padikkal, as the India top order all contributed to post an imposing total in the shadow of the Dhauladhars.

Even some Ben Stokes magic with the ball could not turn the tide of England's fortunes. Stokes claimed the wicket of Rohit with his first delivery of the series, having not bowled competitively since the second Test of last year's Ashes. 

A sharply seaming ball that hit Rohit's off stump as he resumed his innings after the lunch break not only ended a 171-run stand for the second wicket, but added to the list of what-might-have-beens for England on this tour.

With Stokes back to fulfill his allrounder status after a gap of 251 days, England's attack plugged away manfully in placid conditions. 

But they were let down by a few scruffy moments in the field, which included Stokes dropping Sarfaraz in his follow through from a delivery that was subsequently called a no-ball.

Shoaib Bashir impressed once again, providing both durability and cutting edge despite still suffering the after-effects of a stomach bug that limited his involvement in the build-up. His 44-over stint matched the first innings in Ranchi for his longest in first-class cricket, and had Zak Crawley not missed a sharp chance at leg slip when Rohit was on 68, Bashir might have been able celebrate a second five-for in only his third Test. Then, in Bashir's final over of the day, Stokes put down Kuldeep Yadav in the slips as India's ninth-wicket pair successfully navigated a way to the close.

After a serene morning session for India in which they had added 129 without loss, Rohit's dismissal was followed by Gill having his off stump flattened, James Anderson bagging wicket No. 699 in Tests and giving England something to rally around. The lead at that stage was 61, but any sense of an opportunity for England was scotched by another bright partnership between two batters for the future.

Padikkal, at No. 4, initially found the boundary with regularity while Sarfaraz bedded in. Having moved watchfully to 9 off 30 balls, Sarfaraz kicked up through the gears with a flurry of attacking shots to raises his third Test half-century. Mark Wood was dispatched into the crowd before Sarfaraz took on Tom Hartley with the second new ball as India extended their lead beyond 150 at tea.

England again struck straight after the interval, Bashir having Sarfaraz caught at slip attempting to cut the first ball back. Padikkal nonchalantly lofted the England offspinner for six over long-on to bring up his maiden fifty but he, too, could not go on as Bashir caught him on the crease with one that turned to hit the top of off stump. Dhruv Jurel holed out to give Bashir his fourth and Hartley then struck twice in the following over, Ravindra Jadeja pinned lbw before R Ashwin played around one that went on with the arm.

By that stage, the outline of the day was as clear as the hills in the background, India having cruised into the ascendency without breaking much of a sweat. The overnight pair both went on to record their second hundreds of the series - Rohit's 12th overall, Gill with his fourth in Tests - as the home side tightened their grip on the match.