A magnificent debut hundred from Rohit Sharma and a gritty rear guard action from R. Ashwin saw India take a lead of 120 runs as they ended day 2 on 354/6 after their top order crumbled in front of a sensational spell from Shane Shillingford. The duo strung together a massive 198 run unbeaten partnership with Sharma batting on 127 and Ashwin on 92.
Rohit Sharma became the 14th Indian batsman to score a hundred on debut and in front of an Eden Gardens crowd, the Mumbai batsman displayed an innings filled with spectacular shot and immense maturity. Incidentally, Shikhar Dhawan was the last Indian to scored a debut hundred for India against the Australians in Mohali last year.
However, the day started off with India being caught on the wrong foot by Shane Shillingford. The West Indian offie bowled with immaculate accuracy and broke the back of the Indian top order. The Indian openers took guard with 34 runs on the board but the West Indian off spinner struck quickly when Shikhar Dhawan (23) played one onto his stumps. He was quickly followed by his opening partner Murali Vijay (26), who was completely outfoxed by a doosra and was stranded at the middle of the pitch.
The exit of Murali Vijay meant Sachin Tendulkar walking in. The Indian maestro was welcomed to the crease with a rousing ovation and the little master looked all charged up as he jogged onto the field rather than his customary walk-in. He immediately got going with two on drives off Shillingford but lost his partner Cheteswar Pujara (17) to Sheldon Cottrell after the Saurashtra batsman tried to scoop the left armer over slips only to fall prey to some extra bounce.
That brought Virat Kohli to the crease and Shillingford triggered a mini collapse as Tendulkar was adjudged trapped in front when he misread a doosra for just 10. The replays however, showed that the ball hit him on his right thigh and would have sailed over the stumps. The master walked back among a stunned Eden Gardens crowd and West Indies piled on the misery as Kohli (3) also fell prey to Shillingford. The Delhi batsman, too, looked unhappy with the decision and was a touch unlucky as the replays couldn’t pick up any edge on to his pads.
With India reeling at 83/5, MS Dhoni got into the repair job with Rohit Sharma and the duo added a valuable 73 runs for the 6th wicket. MS Dhoni attacked Shillingford and tried to throw him off his length while Sharma rotated the strike to keep the scoreboard moving. The partnership took India into lunch with West Indies looking the ones to take the lead.
After lunch, MS Dhoni started opening up and Sharma too settled into a nice rhythm. However, Dhoni’s vigil at the crease came to an end after the Indian captain wafted at a wide delivery from Tino Best and was caught behind for 42. Ashwin joined Sharma and the partnership saw India gain the upper hand by the end of the day.
Ashwin, who scored a hundred the last time India faced West Indies, looked unfazed by Shillingford and handled the pace of Best and company with great ease. He played shots all round the ground and brought up a classy half century.
But it was Rohit Sharma who was the star of the show. Making his Test debut after playing 108 ODIs, the graceful right-hander grabbed his opportunity with both hands and played a spotless innings that was decorated with cracking drives, crisp pull shots and deft touches off the spinners. However, it was his composure that stood out and he guided India to a position of strength by raking up a debut hundred.
On day 3, Ashwin will look to get to his hundred and India would like to stretch their lead beyond 150 runs and on a crumbling track, it might prove to be quite a task to handle the duo of Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha.