Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja halt England’s progress after Mark Wood shines

By Sports Desk February 15, 2024

Mark Wood shone on his recall but hundreds from India captain Rohit Sharma and hometown hero Ravindra Jadeja blunted England’s charge on the opening day of the third Test.

Left out in Visakhapatnam, where the hosts levelled the series at 1-1, Wood rewarded England’s gamble to select two seamers for the first time this tour by finding the edges of Yashasvi Jaiswal and Shubman Gill as India stumbled to 33 for three.

But Joe Root’s drop to reprieve Rohit on 27 was a sliding doors moment as the opener added another 104 before falling to Wood, who finished with three for 69 and ran out the lively Sarfaraz Khan on debut.

Jadeja made a princely 110 not out on his return from a hamstring injury but England might have snared both centurions had they reviewed shortly before they reached three figures on a chastening day which finished with India on 326 for five.

Despite Ben Stokes calling incorrectly at the toss on his 100th Test, the early morning moisture aided England’s bowlers and they capitalised by leaving India three down inside the first nine overs.

As temperatures rose in Gujarat and the pitch gradually flattened out, Rohit, Jadeja then Sarfaraz, who contributed 62 off just 66 balls, helped India wrestle control as they added 151 in the last session.

England’s quicks shared new-ball duties and were punished for overpitching but Wood adjusted and gained some extra bounce and a hint of movement as he angled across Jaiswal, a double centurion in Vizag who made 10 as a tentative poke caught the edge and was gobbled up by Root at first slip.

Gill looked ill-at-ease and departed for a nine-ball duck in Wood’s next over after playing inside the line and nicking off, having been beaten through the gate by the previous delivery.

When Tom Hartley found grip and turn from an innocuous length in his first over, Rajat Patidar miscued to cover on five.

Jadeja was shuffled up one place to spare Sarfaraz a baptism of fire but the debutant might have walked in with India on 47 for four had a diving Root held on when Rohit edged an attempted flick off Hartley.

Root’s drop seemed inconsequential when Rohit was given lbw off James Anderson three balls later but an inside edge saw the decision overturned. Having been sconed on the grill by a spiteful Wood lifter and left needing treatment after inside edging on to his thigh, Rohit was struggling but hanging in there.

As the surface became more docile under the beating hot sun, he and Jadeja made hay either side of lunch, with Rohit surviving a tight lbw call on 49 to move to his first Test 50 in nine innings.

He cast off the shackles by depositing both Hartley and Root over long-on as England toiled without reward in a wicketless middle session.

A sinking feeling may have pervaded for the tourists after they failed to review a muted lbw appeal when Rohit missed a sweep on 87. While the ball might have brushed Rohit’s glove, it definitely thudded into his forearm and would have gone on to crash into leg stump.

Third umpire Rod Tucker was spared a tricky decision and Rohit brought up his century after tea before looking to turn the screw, perishing when a full-blooded heave took a top-edge and was caught by Stokes. The Durham pair celebrated wildly after ending a 204-run union but it was brief respite.

Jadeja was strong all around the wicket and especially off his hips, getting a short-arm pull off Wood to go the distance, before offering his first chance on 93. Hartley seemed to beat the inside edge with one that skidded on and the ball would have gone on to clatter middle stump.

Sarfaraz, who was drafted in for his international bow with a lofty first-class average of 69.85, poured salt into the wound as India moved through the gears. The 26-year-old was not overawed by the occasion, handling England’s spinners with ease and driving superbly.

He moved briskly to a 48-ball 50 but he was left high and dry when his partner was on 99. Setting off for a single which would have taken Jadeja to three figures, Sarfaraz was sent back and left well short of his crease following Wood’s direct hit.

There were muted celebrations when Jadeja reached his hundred just before stumps but his contribution helped India gain control.

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