Rohit's half-century takes India to 99/3 on Day 1

India score 99/3 at stumps on Day 1 after Axar Patel hits Englishmen for a six

Patel's career saw its best figures yet of six for 38 from an unchanged 21.4 overs

Rohit Sharma. Credit: Twitter/@BCCI

Any and all complaints England have regarding the first-day pitch for the third Test against India at the Narendra Modi stadium can be rubbished without consideration.

Perhaps, if stretched, there was some texture to their grievance after the turner at the MA Chidambaram stadium in Chennai for the second Test. But, at the Motera on Wednesday, they simply lacked application and the wherewithal to take on the Axar Patel-R Ashwin tandem.  

In letting the baggage of the previous loss taint their perception, they perhaps fell prey to overanalyses, forgetting to bat in a way unique to them against spin in subcontinent conditions. The result of such a self-defeating routine meant they were bowled out for 112 in 48.4 overs, and six of those scalps belonged to Axar.  

With career-best figures of six for 38 from an unchanged 21.4 overs, the left-arm spinner, who had a fifer in his debut in Chennai last week, wiped England out with an intelligent read of the surface, while an uncompromising Ashwin returned three scalps for 26 runs in 16 overs. 

Also Read | I just knew that I would do well, says Axar Patel

Ishant Sharma, in his 100th Test, picked up the one wicket that started the collapse, a debacle that put India within 13 runs of the lead after little over a session of batting.

As a nuisance, they lost the wickets of Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli, but it was still an extended lesson in organised batting by Rohit Sharma as his half-century took India to an advantageous 99/3 in 33 overs at stumps.   

Having won an all-important toss, Joe Root’s camp could have arrested the blossoming of India’s confidence by coming up with partnerships worth time, even if not reflective in runs scored. 

It so happened that they couldn’t do both, and the pitch had little to do with it. Barring the odd one which stayed low, there was fairly consistent bounce. Then, there was only spin to confront. But so effective was the Axar-Ashwin partnership that India didn’t even have to go to Washington Sundar, who replaced Kuldeep Yadav as the third spinner for this Test. 

Though Jasprit Bumrah, returning in place of Mohammed Siraj, did well to complement Ishant with the new ball, the opening bowlers didn’t get the healthy crowd going. At least not the way local boy Axar did after he picked up a wicket off his very first delivery in the seventh over. 

It must be said that Axar wasn’t as good as his figures make him out to be. Every over saw a loose ball or two, but England, barring Zak Crawley (53), were so far in their own heads that they weren’t able to look beyond. Instead, their confused footwork and inability to play the line consistently enough offered Axar and Ashwin control of two sessions, inside of which seven wickets were picked up for 38 runs. 

Left with 39 overs, Rohit and Gill used soft hands to good effect until the younger of the two went for an ill-advised pull against Jofra Archer and was caught out by Crawley. Pujara followed suite next over, trapped leg before wicket by Jack Leach for a rare nought.

Thereon, Rohit took on the mantle of keeping the board ticking, while Kohli, barring a chance to Ollie Pope on 24, looked as solid as he has in a while. That was until he looked to cut a not-so-wide delivery from Leach and chopped it onto the stumps with four minutes left in the day.

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