India Vs Australia 3rd Test: The Hitman's love affair with MCG continues
India are in a strong position at the end of second day’s play at the Melbourne Cricket Ground(MCG) in the third Test against Australia. After winning the toss and electing to bat first, India declared their innings closed at 443 for 7. In reply, Australia are 8 for no loss in 6 overs at the close of play on the second day.
As far as the match situation is concerned, the Indians should look forward to dismissing the Australians cheaply in the first innings to enforce the follow-on and force a result in their favor.
For the first time in the series, all Indian batsmen came up with substantial contributions. To start with, the openers added 40 runs and Mayank Agarwal on his debut scored an enterprising 76 which happened to be the highest score for an Indian batsman on his debut in Australia.
Pujara, the new wall of Indian batting, scored his second century of the series and his partnership with Virat Kohli yielded 170 runs for the third wicket. The captain scored 82 delightful runs. But the surprising innings came from the bat of Rohit Sharma who remained not out on 63 off 114 balls when the declaration came.
This is Rohit Sharma's first Test match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. After his mediocre performance in the first Test at Adelaide, Rohit came into this Test match with a lot of expectations and the resultant anxiety to perform.
He must thank the team management for accommodating him in the middle-order at the cost of two out-of-form openers. But Rohit has justified the faith the team management reposed on him with a composed inning of 63 not out.
At Melbourne, when Rohit walked out to bat at No 6, for once, India were comfortably placed at almost 300 for 4. Based on his performances in the past on this ground, Rohit might have felt the atmosphere familiar and at home.
He took his time to settle down. He had his good fortune when on 15 the substitute fielder Peter Siddle missed a sitter off the bowling of Nathan Lyon. Rohit composed himself thereafter and scored an unbeaten 63 with the help of 5 fours.
Looking back, the MCG has always been a happy hunting ground for Rohit Sharma in the past. The only time he failed to make any substantial contribution at Melbourne was in the World Cup match against South Africa when he was run-out before opening his account.
His record at MCG stands as follows:
T20I – Matches – 2, Innings – 2, Runs – 68, Avg – 34, SR-124
ODI – Matches – 6, Innings – 6, Runs – 341, Avg – 68, SR – 94, 100s -2
Rohit’s best innings at Melbourne came against Bangladesh in the quarter-final of World Cup 2015. In the World Cup 2015, India won every match on their way to the quarter-final. Before the quarter-final, Rohit had a poor World Cup by his own standards with a total aggregate of 159 runs in 5 innings at an average of 32.
But coming into the quarter-final, Rohit had good memories of Melbourne when he had smashed 138 runs against Australia barely 2 months ago in the one-day series against them just before the World Cup.
In the quarter-final against Bangladesh, India won the toss and elected to bat first. Rohit started the Indian innings in grand style square driving the first ball for a four. But India kept on losing wickets at the other end which slowed Rohit down.
He reached his 50 off 70 balls. India lost Dhawan, Virat and Rahane quickly and were 115 for 3 at the end of 28 overs. Rohit Sharma was holding one end up when Raina joined him for the 4th wicket.
This paid added 122 runs for the 4th wicket which enabled India to reach a massive score of 302. When on 90, Rohit was lucky as he hit a waist-high full toss bowled by Rubel Hossain straight into the hands of deep mid-wicket. But it was wrongly declared by the third umpire as no-ball for height.
Rohit duly reached his maiden World Cup century off 109 balls. He took off after reaching his century and finished up scoring 137 in the end. India won that match by a massive margin of 109 runs.
In T20I Rohit scored a 60 off 47 balls against Australia at Melbourne in the three-match series in 2016 which India won by a thumping margin of 3-0.
Rohit Sharma’s Test innings of 63 not out at Melbourne today could not have come at a better time when his ability as a Test batsman is under scrutiny. This could be a career-changing innings for him in red ball cricket. He might not get a chance to bat in the second innings at Melbourne. But he could carry forward his new found confidence into the New year for the Sydney Test.
Rohit could draw inspiration from the innings of 167 played by VVS Laxman in the New Year Test at Sydney in the year 2000 which launched his career upward. A similar kind of innings would skyrocket Rohit Sharma’s Test career. Meanwhile, the Hitman is back into Test Cricket with a bang.