Rohit’s debut century rescues India
Rohit Sharma stamped his class by hitting a sparkling century on debut as India recovered from a top-order collapse to take a firm grip of the first Test against the West Indies with a 120-run first-innings lead in Kolkata on Thursday.
Sharma stole the thunder with his unbeaten 127 as the hosts, who were precariously placed at 83 for five at one stage, reached a comfortable 354 for six at close on an eventful second day’s play.
Ravichandran Ashwin was the other batting hero of the day as he remained unbeaten on 92 as he combined with Sharma to pull India out of trouble. Sharma became the 14th Indian to score a century on debut.
With retiring legend Sachin Tendulkar being given out in a contentious manner in his penultimate match, the in-form Sharma along with Ashwin added 198 runs for the seventh wicket to almost bat the visiting side out of the match on a tricky Eden Gardens strip.
Handed the Test cap by Tendulkar after his Man-of-the Series performance in the recently-concluded ODI series against Australia, Sharma struck 16 fours and one six while facing 228 balls.
The 26-year-old Mumbai right-hander was playing in his maiden Test three years and nine months after playing his first ODI.
Ashwin played the perfect foil as the offspinner made invaluable runs in their match-turning partnership that helped India get past the West Indies first innings score of 234.
On a pitch that has started to crumble, the match is tilted in favour of India, who will be looking to seal the issue without needing to play on the final day.
For the elegant Mumbai batsman, who was assured of a Test debut on the morning of February 6, 2010 against South Africa before a freak collision with Wriddhiman Saha dashed his hopes, it was perseverance that paid off.
Having come after the unlucky dismissal of Tendulkar, Sharma showed amazing resillience.
As wickets started to tumble with Shane Shillingford (4/130) reducing the hosts to 83/5 in the first session, it was left to Sharma and Ashwin to do the recovery act.
Sharma got to the century in style, gliding one past between first slip and gully. And, the ones bowled by Sheldon Cottrell, just before and immediately after the batsman got to the three-figure mark, were also spanked for fours on either side of the turf.
Sharma, who had amassed 491 runs including a double hundred at an average of 122.75 in the Australia ODI series, remained composed as he initially rebuilt the innings with Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (42).
Barring Tendulkar, who got out to a dubious lbw decision by English umpire Nigel Llong, the frontline Indian batsmen Shikhar Dhawan (23), Murali Vijay (26), Cheteshwar Pujara (17) and Virat Kohli (3) were lacking in temperament.
But Sharma showed temperament and excellent technique, and lived up to the challenge.
Dhawan (187) was the last Indian to score a century on debut against Australia in March.
Sharma walked out to the centre in the middle of an intense first session’s play when the Eden crowd’s emotions were punctured with the dismissal of Tendulkar after a 41-minute outing.
Getting into the groove with two boundaries off Shillingford, Tendulkar would be cursing his luck for being given out to a doosra that seemed to be going over the stumps.
The ball did all the talking for Shillingford as WI had Sharma and Virat Kohli heavily-guarded. Kohli became the offspinner’s fourth victim.
India’s backbone was broken after they lost three wickets — Pujara, Tendulkar and Kohli as the hosts were tottering at 120/5 at lunch.
The first new ball deteriorated after 51 balls and had to be replaced, giving WI a ray of hope.
Like last day, the ball-change did the trick as Dhoni was dismissed immediately by Tino Best, breaking a promising 73-run sixth-wicket partnership.
However, Sharma’s resolute innings proved to be the difference as India did not have a West Indies-like collapse.
The buzz around Tendulkar’s dismissal, in fact, helped Sharma go about his rask quietly, while Ashwin attacked.
West Indies 1st Innings: 234 all out
India 1st Innings: 354 for 6 in 102 overs (Rohit Sharma 127 batting, R Ashwin 92 batting, Shane Shillingford 4/130).