India vs Sri Lanka 2017, 2nd Test: Rohit Sharma's sizzling century is SK Play of the Day
The last time Rohit Sharma reached three figures in Tests, Sachin Tendulkar was still a part of the Indian team. He had smashed twin tons in the legendary batsman's farewell series towards the end of 2013. More than four years later, the stylish right-hander ended a long wait by scoring an aggressive century during the third day of the second Test against Sri Lanka at the Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA) Stadium in Nagpur.
Rohit's dynamic 160-ball 102 swelled India's lead to 405 and enabled skipper Virat Kohli to enforce a rapid declaration in the latter part of the third day's play. The captain himself had led the Indian team's charge by bringing up his fifth double century in Tests. The duo capitalised on the strong foundation established by fellow centurions Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara.
Having declared at a whopping 610 for the loss of six wickets, India got an early breakthrough in the second innings as Ishant Sharma castled opener Sadeera Samarawickrama. Facing a deficit of 384 runs with only nine wickets at hand, Sri Lanka are left to confront a seemingly improbable task awaiting them in the next two days.
Let us take a look at how Rohit celebrated his Test comeback by hammering his third century in the premier format of the game.
Rohit's tryst with Nagpur
Even though the city is his birthplace, Rohit's affair with Nagpur has not been rosy. When VVS Laxman sustained a finger injury on the eve of the opening Test of the 2010 series against South Africa, Rohit was called into the squad and looked set to make his Test debut.
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However, he injured himself while playing football during the warm-up session on the morning of the start of the Test match. As a result, Rohit saw Wriddhiman Saha make his debut as specialist batsman under wicket-keeper MS Dhoni's captaincy. Eventually, Dale Steyn's sensational spell on a docile track propelled South Africa to a famous innings triumph.
As for Rohit, he was consigned to the wilderness. Three years later, he finally made his long-awaited Test debut. With the focus surrounding Tendulkar's emotional exit, the right-hander amassed two centuries in as many matches against a harmless West Indies attack.
Home-town lad exorcises his demons
Despite a sterling start to his Test career, Rohit struggled to cling on to his place as India stepped outside their comfort zone for a slew of challenging tours between 2013 and 2015. With Kohli intent on fielding five specialist bowling options on most pitches, the Mumbaikar found himself watching from the sidelines on the vast majority of occasions.
Returning to the Test team after more than a year, Rohit arrived at the crease on the back of a remarkable show from those above him. Coming into bat at 410/4, he joined his captain in putting the Sri Lankan bowlers to the sword. Dilruwan Perera greeted him with an unplayable delivery.
Even as Kohli was going from strength to strength at the other end, Rohit took a bit of time to get himself acquainted with the pace of the surface. The lofted shot to clear the long-on boundary not only enabled him to get on top of Perera but also helped him allay the nerves surrounding his comeback into the Test arena.
Rohit repeatedly stepped out to Rangana Herath and beat the wily master at his own game. While the iconic left-arm spinner looked to entrap him with his subtle variations in flight, the elegant right-hander was up to his tricks. He brought up his half-century just before the end of the second session.
Soon after the tea break, both batsmen were targeting quick runs in order to give their bowlers a sizeable number of overs before the end of the day's play. Rohit took the attack to the Sri Lankan fast bowlers in his own inimitable manner. His innate ability to pick up length quicker than most other batsmen assisted him to find the boundary on a regular basis.
When Kohli was dismissed after registering an impressive double century, the focus shifted to Rohit and his impending milestone. The middle-order batsman brought up a well-compiled century with a delectable back-foot drive. Consequently, India managed to get the timing of their declaration spot-on.
At the end of the third day's play, a visibly relieved Rohit quipped, "There was pressure, it's close to 500 days (around 410 days) since I played my last Test match. So I was a little nervous. Last year when I missed out on a big home season, I felt a little disappointed. We might never get such a season again - 13 home Tests. But the bottom line is to score runs every time you go out. I'm really glad that I got some runs. (On his tryst with Nagpur) It was disappointing when I came here the first time in 2010 and got injured when I was supposed to make a debut. It took almost four years after that. So I don't want to think of it at all."
With the Indian team set to embark on a gruelling round of away tours, Rohit's smooth return to Tests could give them an extra option in the batting department.