On a Day 1 wicket that provided plenty of assistance to the spinners right from the opening session, England made crucial strikes in the morning session of the second Test in Chennai, even as India scored at a good rate with Rohit Sharma (80*) registering a brisk half-century. India were 106 for 3 at Lunch on Saturday (February 13), with England having picked up the big wicket of Virat Kohli.
With plenty of changes for both teams, on a pitch that looked quite different to the one used for the first Test, Kohli won the toss and opted to bat, announcing the inclusions of Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav and Mohammad Siraj, with Jasprit Bumrah being rested for the game. For England, apart from Ben Foakes, Moeen Ali and Stuart Broad, Olly Stone was chosen over Chris Woakes. And it was Stone, who bowled with pace and control, who provided the early breakthrough, getting one to jag back into Shubman Gill who decided to shoulder arms and was out leg-before.
The misjudgement from Gill, wasn’t the only time when the Indian batsmen didn’t appear in control. Rohit was creaming drives off Broad through the off side but he was also early into a flick when a ball stopped on him, just about clearing mid-on. Cheteshwar Pujara, like always, was solid with his defence but he did get hit on the knuckles by a short delivery from Stone and was also beaten outside off. Rohit also went hard at a cut and got an under-edge to the boundary.
Jack Leach was introduced as early as the eighth over and he went up in appeal for LBW after Rohit missed a paddle sweep, and England ended up losing a review. Rohit then stamped his authority by pulling successive deliveries from Ben Stokes for a six and a four. Puff of dust off a length was a regular feature on a dry Chepauk wicket which was offering turn and uneven bounce, and Leach was relishing bowling in such conditions. He even got one to bounce a bit on Rohit, with the ball hitting the gloves but landing just short of Stokes at slip.
Rohit, however, did not let the left-arm spinner settle down as he executed the sweep shot off two back-to-back deliveries to bring up a 47-ball fifty. Pujara, at the other end, was using his feet well against the spinners as the Indian pair maintained a good scoring rate despite the nature of the pitch. There were a few edges and leg-before shouts but England weren’t able to put a lid on the run-rate, with a few loose deliveries from both the spinners making the job of the Indian batsmen easier.
But the fortunes changed in a matter of a couple of overs with the spinners effecting plenty of damage. The second wicket partnership, worth 85, came to an end as Pujara pushed at a Leach delivery that turned away and ended up edging it to Stokes at slip. Kohli fell to Moeen Ali without scoring, looking to drive against the spin but leaving open a gate to be bowled. Rohit, meanwhile, continued playing cracking shots as he powered India past 100 and was unbeaten at the break along with Ajinkya Rahane.