x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Rohit Sharma and Ravichandran Ashwin steady India’s innings on Day 2, and then some

Rohit Sharma and Ravichandran Ashwin took a shaky India innings that at one point boasted just 83 runs from five fallen wickets in the morning and made for an unbeaten 198-run partnership to end the day for the side at 354 for six.

If the beginning of Day 2 of the first Test between India and the West Indies in Kolkata looked like a repeat of Day 1, Rohit Sharma and Ravichandran Ashwin made sure the end of it looked anything but.

The West Indies bowling attack dominated the morning session. Much as Mohammed Shami stole the show on the first day for India’s pacemen, so Shane Shillingford proceeded to decimate the India batting order as the second day began.

Shillingford – who hadn’t played any cricket since a mid-August showing in the Caribbean Premier League T20 competition before being recalled by the West Indies for this Test – bowled out Shikhar Dhawan three overs into the day and then had his opening partner, Murali Vijay, stumped by Denesh Ramdin soon after.

His big prize came when he trapped Sachin Tendulkar leg before wicket, and then five balls later he had Virat Kohli caught by Kieran Powell. Sachin left with 10 runs, and Kohli just three.

At that point, India had only 83 runs to show for their five fallen wickets.

Little did anyone know at the time, but the real show of the day had already quietly begun.

Sharma, who came in at six after the fall of Sachin, teamed up with MS Dhoni to stabilise India’s innings, bringing the side to 120 for 5 by lunch. They completed a 73-run partnership for the sixth wicket before Dhoni was finally caught out by Ramdin from a Tino Best delivery, and, at 156 for 6, it was still a question of whether India would even reach West Indies’ meagre first innings total of 234. But Sharma found the partner who would help him define the day.

Ashwin and Sharma batted together to stumps, combining for a match-altering 198-run partnership. Sharma, on his Test debut, rounded out the day with 127 runs from 228 balls and Ashwin nearly claimed a century himself, reaching 92 from 148 balls.

The display turned a 151-run deficit at the fall of India’s fifth wicket into a 120-run lead with four wickets still in hand.

And Sharma, who was a force for India during their one-day series with Australia, showed his skill can translate into Test cricket too.