- Sinchan Saha | February 10, 2023 | 6:13 pm
IND vs AUS, 1st Test, Day 2: India 321 for 7 (Rohit 120, Jadeja 66*, Axar 52*, Murphy 5-82) lead Australia 177 by 144 runs
How competitive could the 177 from Australia be? It would appear that the response was not very good. This seemed like a Test that would be decided by one innings, and Rohit Sharma probably put in that performance on the second day in Nagpur with a remarkable century before the lower order got any benefit from it.
India’s lead grew to a significant amount, and Todd Murphy’s superb debut, which resulted in five wickets, helped Australia keep within striking distance. Ravindra Jadeja added a half-century to his bowling success and a second Test fifty from fellow left-arm spinner Axar Patel added to Rohit’s century, his first as Test captain, giving him hundreds in all three formats as a batter and a leader.
Due to injury, this was only Rohit’s fourth Test match as captain, so he had not yet had a chance to really make an impression on the team. He faced 212 balls over nearly six hours in the middle, and his performance was almost faultless on a surface that, while not as challenging as some had predicted, certainly kept the bowlers in the contest.
On the second day, he batted at a slower pace than on the first evening, when he took advantage of a careless Pat Cummins to skip to a 66-ball fifty. Instead, he scored 29 runs in the first session today and 33 in the second, before he was finally run out by a superb delivery from Cummins with the second new ball, possibly with some tired footwork.
However, by that time, India had taken the lead, which grew to commanding proportions as Jadeja and Axar added an unbroken 81 for the eighth wicket against an exhausted attack. Australia’s position was summed up by Steven Smith’s dropped catch at slip in the final over, which was not the crucial moment.
They will have to put in a lot of effort to set a goal that they can defend, but they could at least celebrate Murphy’s debut, his eighth first-class match, with a performance that showed why he is so highly rated despite his lack of professional experience.
After snatching KL Rahul late on the first day, he used DRS to lbw R Ashwin, an overqualified nightwatchman, and gave Australia their opening incision (and the first four wickets). Cheteshwar Pujara paid the price for a rare sweep, top-edging from well outside leg to short fine, which resulted in a larger loss.
After lunch, the first delivery of the session, another leg-side ball to Virat Kohli, brought a wicket with the thin edge being well held at the second attempt by wicketkeeper Alex Carey, giving Australia a glimmer of an opening.
India were 168 for 5 and still behind Australia’s subpar total when Suryakumar Yadav’s debut innings ended with a loose drive at Nathan Lyon, allowing the ball to spin back through a big gate into off stump. However, this India team bats deep, and the lower middle order has historically played a significant role.
After the wobble either side of lunch, which resulted in India losing 3 for 33, Rohit maintained his composure and slowly worked through the 90s before reaching three figures with a classy lofted drive wide of mid-off. Rohit’s anger at the dismissals of some of his teammates was evident. It was an exhilarating celebration: In the context of the match and possibly the series, this was an important innings.
He had a partner he could rely on in Jadeja, who is now a top-tier Test player, and the two of them played through the remainder of the afternoon session, despite Jadeja having two unfortunate incidents. On 22 and 33, he was the beneficiary of Murphy’s excruciatingly tight umpire’s request for an lbw shout after he edged Scott Boland, who was unlucky, past Smith at a wide slip. The ball went under the right hand on the full, and Murphy was the victim of this.
But Murphy didn’t lose out on his fifth wicket. Murphy pushed one into the pads of fellow debutant KS Bharat after Cummins, with his best spell of the game, finally uprooted Rohit, the ball after Smith missed a clear opportunity at second slip. This time, the DRS went in Australia’s favor.
The visitors’ pre-play hopes that one wicket would bring a clatter never materialized, but if they had been able to quickly cut through the tail, they might have been able to set a target for the fourth innings
India’s dominance even though 9 was a better batter than that position suggests, he was able to play with relative ease, putting some of the talk on the field that came before this game into perspective.
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At first, Jadeja and Axar were very careful, with time on the field and runs being a factor. However, as the shadows got longer, the run rate increased, and Axar hit some striking drives. But you knew that batting would look very different on Saturday when this pair and Ashwin got the ball back in their hands.