2nd Test: Sharma’s 161, Rahane’s 67 help India reach 300/6 (Day 1, stumps)

Rohit Sharma scored his seventh Test century — his first one year and after eight innings — to help India reach the 300 for six wickets on the first day of the second Test against England at the M.A.Chidambaram Stadium here on Saturday. Ajinkya Rahene scored 67 while

Rishabh Pant was batting on 33 at close.

The other unbeaten batsman was debutant Axar Patel, who was on five, on a pitch that had started assisting spin from the first hour of the day.

Sharma’s counter-attacking 161 (off 231 balls, 18x4s, 2x6s) and his 162-run partnership with Rahane (149 balls, 9x4s) helped India recover following a poor start after captain Virat Kohli won the toss and chose to bat.Later in the day, Pant (56 balls, 5x4s, 1×6) put up a 35-run stand with R. Ashwin (13). Axar has so far played seven balls so far and hit one boundary.

India, who lost three wickets in the first session, didn’t lose any in the second session and both Sharma and Rahane handled the England bowlers with ease.

Sharma, who was struggling to get a big score since his return to Test cricket last month, took the attack to the English bowlers in a confident manner. The 33-year-old batsman raced to 80 off 78 deliveries (13x4s, 1×6) to take India to 106 for three wickets at lunch despite India losing three wickets.

On a pitch that aided turn early on, England introduced left-arm spinner Jack Leach as early as the eighth over of the match. Sharma, however, looked in control and put India in the driver’s seat before a couple of wickets late in the first session gave Joe Root’s team some relief.

India had lost Shubman Gill early with the team still to open its account. But then Sharma and No.3 Cheteshwar Pujara (21) shared an 85-run partnership for the second wicket to help India move into a commanding position. The partnership was dominated by Sharma as he unleashed his strokes.

However, just as they looked like they were taking the game away from England, the spinners got into action. Leach got rid of Pujara having him caught at slip by Ben Stokes.

Soon after, off-spinner Moeen Ali, who was proving expensive, spun one back in through the gap between Kohli’s bat and pad to dismiss him for a duck and reduce India to 86 for three.

India had won the toss and elected to bat. The hosts made three changes in the XI that lost the first Test by 227 runs in the four-Test series. They rested pace bowler Jasprit Bumrah and brought in Mohammed Siraj. Left-arm spinner Patel and Chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav replaced left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem and off-spinner Washington Sundar, respectively.

For England, pace bowler Stuart Broad came in for James Anderson, Olly Stone replaced the injured Jofra Archer and picked the wicket of Gill. Off-spinning all-rounder Ali replaced Dom Bess while Ben Foakes replaced Jos Buttler who has gone back to England.

Brief scores (Day 1): India 300/6 wkts in 88 overs (Rohit Sharma 161, Ajinkya Rahane 67, Rishabh Pant 33 batting; Axar Patel 5 batting, Jack Leach 2/78, Moeen Ali 2/95)