3rd Test: Rohit, Jadeja centuries; Sarfaraz’s 62 lead India’s fightback after early trouble

Rajkot, Feb 15 (IANS) Captain Rohit Sharma and all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja smashed centuries each, while Sarfaraz Khan sparkled on his Test debut with 62 off 66 balls as India reached 326/5 in 86 overs at stumps on Day One of the third Test against England at the Niranjan Shah Stadium here on Thursday.

While Rohit made 131, Jadeja was unbeaten on 110, as the duo added 204 runs for the fourth wicket, after India were reduced to 33/3 in the first 45 minutes on a pitch which flattened out as the day progressed.

After the Rohit-Jadeja partnership, also India’s first century stand of the current series ended, Sarfaraz played immaculately against the England spinners, making a 48-ball fifty on Test debut.

But he was run out after a huge mix-up with Jadeja, who was on 99. Jadeja eventually got his century to be undefeated at the end of day one’s play, which sets up the game well for India to make a grand total in their first innings.

The early morning moisture on the Rajkot pitch benefitted Mark Wood, who came into England’s playing eleven in place of spinner Shoaib Bashir. He drew first blood when he angled across a delivery which caught Yashasvi Jaiswal at the crease and the left-hander could only edge behind to first slip. In his next over, Wood had an uncomfortable Shubman Gill nicking behind a good length delivery which nipped away to wicketkeeper Ben Foakes.

England had their third wicket in the ninth over when Hartley got a delivery to jump off a length, which gripped and turned very sharply to take Rajat Patidar’s edge towards cover. After being hit on the helmet grille by Wood in a short-ball play, with three fielders stationed deep in the leg-side, Rohit tried to unsettle Hartley with cut and sweep for boundaries.

He even got a life at 27 in the same over when Joe Root dropped his catch at first slip on an attempted slog. Luck continued to favour Rohit when survived a close lbw shout while dancing down the pitch against Anderson.

Rohit then brought out his good-looking punch, loft down the pitch, pulls and sweeps to reach his fifty in 71 balls. From the other end, Jadeja, promoted to No.5, remained rock-solid, driving and punching Root for a brace of fours to be an ideal partner for Rohit in leading the recovery act for India.

After lunch, Rohit and Jadeja were in control of their approach, rotating the strike well and putting the bad balls away to get runs easily as the pitch began to flatten out. Jadeja edged a four off Wood while Rohit danced down the pitch to loft Hartley over long-on for six, before glancing Anderson for a boundary, as the duo continued their recovery act for India.

Shortly after India got its first century-plus stand of the series through the Rohit-Jadeja stand, boundaries continued to flow as Jadeja got his fifty off 97 balls, with England not finding much help off the pitch to test the batters.

Rohit then greeted Root with a swing over long-on for six and whipped Ahmed wide over mid-on for a boundary. Jadeja then drove Root powerfully past mid-on for four and pulled him over mid-wicket for six to get the second session in India’s favour -– 92 runs for no wicket — with more hard work under the sun awaiting England.

After tea, Rohit reached his 11th Test century with a brace off Ahmed and England lost a review against him in desperation. The runs continued to flow for the duo as 50 runs came in the first 11 overs of the session, till Wood was rewarded for his persistence when Rohit miscued a pull to mid-wicket.

Sarfaraz had a few nervous moments, especially with Wood bowling short balls, before settling himself in nicely against the spinners. He showed good footwork, used the depth of the crease well, and was fine in picking the lengths and playing with soft hands to manoeuvre against the spinners while taking calculated risks.

It meant that Sarfaraz was flawless with his lofts down the ground, pulls and sweeps to reach his first Test fifty with seven fours and a six in front of his father and wife. Sarfaraz would dazzle with boundaries off Anderson and Hartley, even as Jadeja slowed down and survived on 93 when England chose not to take a review off Hartley, with replays later showing he would have been out lbw.

Sarfaraz was then sold down the river by Jadeja in pursuit of taking a single for the century, as Wood aimed a direct hit from mid-on at the non-striker’s end, ending the debutant’s innings. That run-out of Sarfaraz brought out an angry reaction from Rohit, who threw his cap in anger in the dressing room.

A ball later, Jadeja would reach his fourth Test hundred and brought out the sword-like celebration, but it was subdued. He would collect two more boundaries before stumps arrived on a fruitful day for India, who would need Jadeja and nightwatchman Kuldeep Yadav to go big on day two, with debutant Dhruv Jurel still there to bat.

Brief scores:

India 326/5 in 86 overs (Rohit Sharma 131, Ravindra Jadeja 110 not out, Sarfaraz Khan 62; Mark Wood 3-69, Tom Hartley 1-81) against England.

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