Rohit’s first Test ton as captain and Murphy’s five-for on debut headline the day’s action

Jadeja and Axar underline their all-rounder credentials with unbeaten half-centuries as India takes control, leading by almost 150 runs

Published - February 10, 2023 08:40 pm IST - Nagpur

At home in Nagpur:  Rohit Sharma’s love affair with Nagpur continued with the India captain crossing another milestone in the city of his birth.

At home in Nagpur: Rohit Sharma’s love affair with Nagpur continued with the India captain crossing another milestone in the city of his birth. | Photo Credit: K.R. Deepak

Rohit Sharma continued his bond with the city of his birth with a hundred while the all-rounder duo of Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel ensured India built on the captain’s first century against Australia and take a firm grip on the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series-opener here on Friday.

The trio’s effort also eclipsed young off-spinner Todd Murphy’s five-wicket haul on Test debut, as India ended the day at 321 for seven, with a sizeable lead of 144 runs.

When Rohit and R. Ashwin — promoted on the first evening to shield the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli — walked out at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium to resume the first innings, India was 100 runs behind Australia’s 177.

Holding the fort

Pacer Scott Boland and the two off-spinners — veteran Nathan Lyon and rookie Murphy — were accurate all through the morning but for more than an hour, the Indian batters held the fort before Ashwin was finally dismissed by Murphy.

Both the off-spinners preferred to bowl around the wicket to the Indians for most of the day’s play. Murphy was rewarded when a top-edged sweep by Cheteshwar Pujara went straight to Boland at short fine-leg.

Rohit, though, was playing an excellent knock at the other end, playing the patient game and making the most of every scoring opportunity. The pitch appeared to hardly have any demons in it for him.

When Pat Cummins enticed him into a short-ball ploy with two fielders on the boundary, Rohit took up the challenge and just cleared deep square-leg for his second six. A mix-up with Kohli, to be saved by a wayward throw by Marnus Labuschagne, was the closest he came to being dismissed in the morning.

Spot of bother

At 151 for three, with Rohit closing in on his maiden ton as captain and Kohli for company, India would have hoped to shut the door on the Aussies in the afternoon session. However, the first ball after resumption saw Kohli chasing one by Murphy that spun away from him down the leg, nicking it and finding ’keeper Alex Carey pouching the ball on second attempt.

When Lyon found one holding its line and breaching through debutant Suryakumar Yadav’s gate, at 168 for five, India was in a spot of bother. Minutes later, Rohit cleared mid-off with a lofted drive off Murphy to celebrate the landmark.

With Jadeja looking solid at the other end, the duo had stretched India’s lead to 49 at tea. Cummins didn’t waste any time in opting for the new ball and bowled the spell of the match so far.

The third ball of the session saw Steve Smith’s buttery fingers unable to hold on to an edge. But the next ball beat Rohit all ends up as the off-stump went cartwheeling.

Memorable debut:  A five-for on debut is any bowler’s dream, and Todd Murphy made it happen in Nagpur on Friday.

Memorable debut: A five-for on debut is any bowler’s dream, and Todd Murphy made it happen in Nagpur on Friday. | Photo Credit: K.R. Deepak

Murphy then picked up his five-for with K.S. Bharat’s dismissal and India was again far from safety, with a lead of 63 when Axar joined Jadeja in the middle.

Seizing the initiative

For the rest of the session, the duo pulverised a hapless Australian attack to help India seize the initiative. Their unbroken 81-run association was seamless, with cuts by both the left-handers and Jadeja’s drives being the feature.

Had Smith not dropped Jadeja off the penultimate ball of the day, Australia could have hoped to claw back into the game.

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