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3 talking points as Team India take toss out of the equation with assertive display

Rohit Sharma scored an unbeaten 57 to put Team India in the ascendancy.
Rohit Sharma scored an unbeaten 57 to put Team India in the ascendancy.
Wasiq Agha
ANALYST
Modified 25 Feb 2021
Feature

The first day of the much-anticipated pink-ball Test ended with Team India firmly in the ascendancy.

Despite losing the toss, Team India were fabulous with the ball, bowling England out for a paltry 112. In response, the hosts negotiated a tricky final session to reach stumps at 99/3, with opener Rohit Sharma on an unbeaten 57.

Axar Patel was the star of the show in the England first innings. The left-arm spinner enthralled his home crowd, producing fabulous figures of 6/38. He was admirably supported by Ravichandran Ashwin, who for once played the secondary spinner’s role. The off-spinner, who took 3/26, is now just three wickets shy of 400 Test wickets.

In India's first innings, Rohit Sharma starred with a sublime half-century and looks good for more. While Virat Kohli looked in good touch, he succumbed to Jack Leach in what turned out to be the last over of the day's place.

Nevertheless, Team India will fancy their chances of eking out a significant first-innings advantage and possibly bat the visitors out of the game. On that note, let's have a look at three talking points from an exciting first day of the Ahmedabad day-night Test.

#1 India read the pitch better than England

India and England went in with different strategies for the Ahmedabad Test. While the hosts went in with three spinners, England opted for three seamers, as the pink ball tends to favour the quicker bowlers.

By the end of the first day, one team got their strategy spot on. India read the conditions perfectly and now have a huge advantage on a dry pitch that is offering turn and bounce. Axar Patel got a wicket off his first delivery of the day, while Ravichandran Ashwin got the ball to drift beautifully.

With puffs of dust visible on Day 1, the pitch is likely to deteriorate further as the game progresses. Instead, England frittered away their advantage of batting first, as both Indian spinners got ample purchase of the track to bamboozle the visiting batsmen.

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Eventually, India did not require their third spinner, Washington Sundar, to join the party, as Patel and Ashwin ran riot.

Sundar, who came into the playing XI in place of Kuldeep Yadav, could generate extra bounce owing to his height if he gets an opportunity to do so in the English second innings.

Meanwhile, England’s pacers toiled hard, albeit without success. Stuart Broad and James Anderson shared the new ball for England but couldn't use the hard pink cherry to engineer an early breakthrough.

Instead, it was Jofra Archer’s express pace that provided a wicket to the beleaguered visitors. England may probably have been better off playing someone like Olly Stone in place of Broad or Anderson.

With Jack Leach the only bowler who looked like taking a wicket for England, the visitors will be rueing their decision not picking an extra spinner in their side too.

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#2 Rohit Sharma looks set for a big one

Since 2019, Rohit Sharma has converted his half-centuries into tons on four occasions. The last time he did so was in the second Test in Chennai, where his imperious 161 on a raging turner helped set up a thumping win for Team India.

Rohit Sharma looks set for more of the same in Ahmedabad. On a pitch where only one England batsmen went past 20, the Team India opener provided a masterclass on batting against the pink ball under lights.

Ben Stokes had claimed that the pace trio of Broad, Anderson and Archer could wreak havoc with the pink ball under lights. If Team India were wary of that threat, Sharma certainly didn’t let that show, as the opener looked in great touch.

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He started his innings slowly, giving himself time to adjust to the conditions. However, from 11 runs off 30 balls, Hitman raced to his 50, scoring his next 39 runs off just 33 balls, bringing up his 12th Test century in the process.

The Team India opener's pulls against Jofra Archer were a treat to watch, while the restraint he showed against Anderson and Broad paid him dividends. Rohit Sharma also nullified the threat of Jack Leach, paying the left-arm spinner due respect by negotiating him with a straight bat.

With a set Rohit Sharma at the crease, another big ton from the mercurial opener could be in the offing. He looks to have picked up from where he left off in Chennai. A Rohit Sharma show on Day 2 could see Team India firmly in the driver's seat if they are not there already.


#3 England need to get out of their siege mentality

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Sunil Gavaskar was one of the first ones to observe how England were shooting themselves in the foot with their mindset. Despite winning the toss and batting first, the visitors failed to make the most of the conditions on offer.

Except Zak Crawley, every other England batsman struggled to impose themselves on the game. They looked bereft of self-belief when they walked out, with the turning and gripping track once again catching them off guard.

Senior campaigners like Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow had no answer to the web spun by Ashwin and Axar Patel, as they failed to match Zak Crawley’s patience.

Even when they came out to the field, the visitors looked dejected from ball one. England were visibly annoyed after a couple of decisions went against them, with the big screen capturing their frustrations whenever 'Umpire’s Call' saved India’s batsmen.

Broad and Anderson’s dissatisfaction with the landing area didn’t help their cause either, with the regular stoppages in play preventing England from building any momentum or pressure.

If England are to have any chance of a comeback in this Test, they'll need to start Day 2 with a positive mindset. Their fielders will need to grab all the half-chances, and the bowlers shouldn't get bogged down by the conditions or the match situation.

Joe Root looked like a man with the world’s burden on his shoulders when his team walked off on Day 1. He'll need to rally his troops and snap them out of their siege mentality if England do not want to go down 2-1 down in the series.

Published 25 Feb 2021, 01:49 IST
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