Brief Scores: India 300/6 (Rohit Sharma 161, Ajinkya Rahane 67; Jack Leach 2-78, Moeen Ali 2-112) vs England.
Rohit Sharma stroked a fine 161 with the help of 18 fours and two sixes while Ajinkya Rahane supported him perfectly with a solid 67 as the two shared a 162-run stand after Team India had lost three quick wickets. However, three wickets at the end of the day ensured that India did not run away with the advantage, as they ended at 300 for 6 with Rishabh Pant and Axar Pant at the crease. On a track that did had plenty of turn, Team India managed 106 runs at a rate of more than four an over, but with the loss of the wickets of Cheteshwar Pujara, Shubman Gill and Virat Kohli. Rohit and Rahane then got together to steady the ship, before England picked up three wickets in the last session.
We look at the major talking points from Day 1 of the game:
Rohit Sharma shows aggression up the order
On a track at the Chepauk that was exploding with life and had considerable turn on offer from the very first ball, the Indian opener looked at ease and decided to go all out with aggressive strokeplay. Rohit trusted his ability to attack on a sluggish track in Chennai, where an old-fashioned approach would have only troubled Rohit further.
The opener instead focused on playing spin in front of his body and hit out of the rough comfortably, and went at a run-a-ball in the first session, evn as Team India lost three wickets. He moved away from 20 to 40 in 12 deliveries, and scored 80 runs of the 106 runs that Indians had scored by Lunch. After the dismissal of Virat Kohli, the player toned down his aggressive instinct and instead focused on consolidating the innings with Ajinkya Rahane. He did not shy away from playing his shots from time to time, though, as he shuffled across perfectly to play his hits.
Rohit paddle swept Moeen for two runs to bring up his seventh Test ton, all of which have come in India. Eventually he made 161 runs in an innings that had equal proportions of aggression and calmness.
The fans return for games in India
Ever since Covid-19 caused cricket to come to a standstill, fans have stayed away for a majority of games that the Indian team players have played, including the Indian Premier League. The game at Chennai saw the return of fans, and the TV audience would have surely witnessed the change in atmosphere. Ever since the return of cricket, fans have been accustomed to pre-recorded chants of fans, which often lent an unrealism to the experience of cricket-watching.
Though the stadium was not full to 100 per cent, due to social distancing norms, the return of fams signals a return to normalcy after what had been a strange 2020. Last year, when the world had come to a standstill, sports fans were sharing posts about the return of fans and “filled stadiums” and it felt nostalgic to see the roars when Virat Kohli walked in to bat or when Rohit smashed his hundred. The gasp of silence when Kohli was bowled or the random sounds of dhols brought back the magic to cricket, which is what makes the sports so great.
Jack Leach: The best spinner in the English team
Jack Leach has emerged as one of the best spinners for the team in the last few seasons. However, there remains a vast difference between his first innings and second innings record – he had picked up 36 of his 50 wickets in the second innings of a Test match. Jack Leach averages 57.1 in Test matches in the first innings, which is more than 37 runs worse than his average in the second innings, which is 20.1.
The spinner has played almost half of his Test matches in England and in New Zealand, where the track does not aid his bowling style in the first innings. However, he proved that the above stats are not entirely true as he found adequate turn and bounce to excellent effect. He used the arm ball, forced the Indian batters to draw false shots and picked up the wickets of Pujara and Rohit. He had good control over his line, length and economy rate, and conceded runs at 2.5 even when Rohit was at the crease. His discipline and his rhythm has made him the number one spinner for England, and will be itching to carry forward his form.
Ajinkya Rahane rises to the occasion
The vice-captain of the Indian cricket team has often been in the firing line due to his inconsistent returns (he had 32 knocks of 25 or below in 64 innings since 2017 before the start of this Test match). However, on a day when the team needed him to stick around, Rahane displayed his monk-like concentration and held one end up after the quick fall of wickets.
He survived the reversing ball well, played the pace well and attacked the spinners with late cuts and boundaries to get to his fifty. Ahead of the second Test, Virat Kohli had come out in defence of Rahane, stating that he was one of the side’s best batters.
“I’ve said this many times in the past as well – along with Pujara, he [Rahane] is our most important Test batsman and he is going to continue to be,” he said in the post-match press conference in Chennai.
The innings on Saturday proved just why Rahane is indispensable despite his inconsistencies.