Rohit, Gill put India in driver's seat despite late batting collapse

Rohit and Gill's dominant performance propels India forward despite late batting stumble
Rohit (R), Gill (L)
Rohit (R), Gill (L)

Dharamsala | Skipper Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill's splendid hundreds gave India complete control of the fifth Test against England despite a late batting collapse that saw the hosts end day two at 473 for eight here on Friday.

India lost as many as five wickets for 97 runs in the final session after Rohit (103 off 162 balls) and Gill (110 off 150 balls) shared a stroke-filled 171-run partnership off 244 balls for the second wicket.

Debutant Devdutt Padikkal (65 off 103) showed a lot of class in his debut innings while Sarfaraz Khan (56 off 60) was guilty of throwing away his wicket first ball after tea. The home team, which began the day at 135 for one, led England by 255 runs at stumps.

Off-spinner Shoaib Bashir (4/170 in 44 overs), who was taken to the cleaners by the Indian openers, bounced back strongly to take three wickets in the final session. Left-arm spinner Tom Hartley (2/126 in 39) too was impressive towards the end of the day while Mark Wood (0/89 in 15) was the most expensive.

The pitch remains good for batting and at 376 for three at tea, India looked set to bat England out of the game before the combination of good bowling and reckless batting kept the visitors alive in the match.

India scored at close to 4.5 runs per over until slowing down significantly in the final session.

Kuldeep Yadav spun the ball a lot more than fellow Indian spinners on day one but after a tough time in the first two sessions on day two, Bashir and Co. got a lot out of the surface.

Sarfaraz tried to cut a harmless ball off Bashir and ended up giving an easy catch to Joe Root at first slip. Padikkal got a gem from the England off-spinner that spun away from middle stump to hit the top of the off-stump. Like Sarfaraz, Dhruv Jurel (15) too went for an avoidable shot and perished.

After lunch, England captain Ben Stokes bowled Rohit Sharma off his first ball in nine months to give the visitors something to cheer about.

But Sarfaraz and Padikkal then got together and ensured runs kept flowing for the home team.

Stokes, who had been bowling only in the nets thus far, finally decided to roll his arm over in a match situation after nothing went England's way in the morning session. He had stopped bowling owing to a knee injury and had undergone surgery last year.

Bowling the second over of the afternoon session, Stokes produced a peach that seamed away a touch from good length to dislodge Rohit's off-stump.

In the next over, James Anderson bowled Gill with a beauty that seamed back in, leaving India at 279 for three.

In his debut game, Padikkal's off-side play stood out as he regaled the crowd with exquisite back-foot punches and cover drives.

Sarfaraz, on the other hand, started slowly before changing gears both against pace and spin. What attracted most attention was his attacking play against the express pace of Mark Wood.

His game against fast bowlers has been questioned but Sarfaraz was razor sharp on Friday as he dispatched Wood for a lofted back-drive before pulling him for a six over over backward square leg. He also played a ramp shot off Wood using the extra pace and bounce that he generated.

In the morning, skipper Rohit and Gill struck hundreds as India pressed the advantage in the game by reaching 264 for one at lunch.

Rohit and Gill walked out in the middle in bright sunshine and milked the conditions to take India well past England's first innings total of 218.

England tried everything to contain them, whether it was employing the leg-slip for Rohit when Bashir was in operation or Wood using the odd short ball against the overnight unbeaten duo with as many as six fielders on the leg side.

However, nothing worked for the visitors despite the Barmy Army making a lot more noise compared to Indian fans at the stunning HPCA stadium. Rohit and Gill collected 129 runs from 30 overs in the two hours of play.

Rohit and Gill gave themselves an over each after start of play before going for their strokes.

Off-spinner Bashir opened the bowling alongside Anderson and was put under immense pressure by Rohit, who deposited him for a straight six and a four in his second over to set the tone.

Gill, who played some audacious strokes on the opening day, carried on in the same vein as he took two steps forward against the great Anderson for a straight six, which was followed by a square cut.

The only real chance that England had in the session went begging when Zak Crawley could not latch on to a sharp catch offered by Rohit at leg-slip.

Wood resorted to the short ball tactic against the well-set duo but that did not work either.

Rohit completed his 12th Test hundred and second of the series by flicking Tom Hartley for a single.

Two ball later, Gill followed him into three digits by slog-sweeping Bashir for a four. After completing his second ton of the series, Gill took his helmet off and bowed to the spectators in the stands including his proud father Lakhwinder.

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