Cricket news - Rohit's 161 - A studied masterclass

The innings progression from Rohit was markedly different this time

The innings progression from Rohit was markedly different this time

It's early on day one and a Stuart Broad delivery kicks up a puff of dust. Rohit Sharma's extended defence sees the ball ping off the bat and loop over mid on to rush to the boundary. It's an early indication of how the pitch was going to play. India had read it right when Rahane proclaimed that it was going to turn from day one. Rohit, who was expecting the pitch to behave a certain way, showed his first sign of surprise.

The pitch was a subject of fascination thereafter, right through the day. This Chepauk pitch had a black, clay soil as the top surface unlike the fully red soil that was used for the first Test that India had lost. Mixing of soils is a no-go area, if you asked veteran curators. It isn't the ideal method to prepare Test pitches and so has been the case in Chepauk. Additionally, for this Test there had been only a three-day turnaround to get the pitch ready, and it was evident that to succeed in batting here, despite having the early movers' advantage, wasn't going to be as straightforward as it ought to be after winning the toss.

And as India lost two of their batting bedrocks - Pujara and Kohli - within the space of six balls to England's lead spinners, the dangers came to the forefront. But as they slipped to 86/3, the effects were being felt at just one end, for Rohit was racing away at 65 off 62 at the other.

This had also been Rohit's fastest Test fifty, coming off just 47 balls, and his innings progression would show a marked difference for the next two fifties which would take 83 and 78 balls respectively.

Rohit's innings progression in Test hundreds:

As the table above indicates, this hundred was more hare than tortoise at the start, unlike his previous Test hundreds. While the approach to his double hundred in Ranchi showcased a style of play that was in stark contrast to this one, the end result was not too different, with Rohit still setting up a sizeable first innings score for India.

More importantly for India, the approach was tempered according to the bowling on display. When England fed him with long hops at the start of the innings, Rohit was quick to put them all away, giving himself a racy start. Thereafter, when the bowling lengths became tidier, Rohit would counter them with a mix of sweep shots, lofts and carefully controlled singles. This was the part of the innings where he executed his preparations to perfection, as he'd explain later.

"We knew about how the pitch was prepared and that it was going to turn. We had good training sessions before today and we trained according to what we were going to expect," said Rohit.

"When you're playing on turning pitches, you have to be proactive; you can't be reactive. Getting on top of the bowler, making sure you're ahead of him was very, very crucial. So made little adjustments based on that and understanding if it's turning then how big it is turning, whether it's bouncing or keeping low. Those are the things I considered before making any shot-making decisions," he added.

The sweep shot was an extremely productive shot in this innings for Rohit, especially against Moeen Ali. He swept Ali off the third ball he faced against him. And then rattled off four more boundaries off the same shot. On the approach Rohit said, "You can't be tentative, can't have two thoughts. If you want to sweep, do that; if you want to use your feet and play with the turn, do that.

"I have seen Moeen Ali bowl a lot. He actually bowls very well in the rough and the sweep is a shot that can frustrate a bowler if you are playing that shot well. There's not much the bowler can do from there, or the pitch can do from there. And it was a safer option to take as well because both fielders were on the boundary, so even if you top-edged, it was going to fall safe. Those were the ideas and thoughts behind the sweep shots. It was a percentage shot to play as well because he was bowling outside off-stump, so the lbw doesn't come into play.

"And when Leach was bowling, he was bowling stump to stump, so it was important for me to use my feet, play with the turn and not with a straight ball facing him... with the turn slightly angled. I made sure that I pushed the ball between covers and point," he elaborated.

The carefully laid out plans allowed Rohit other options when the spinners erred in length, allowing him the options of a cut or loft.

And the puffs of dust, or the pitch's demons were otherworldly for a while. Or so Rohit made it seem.

(With stat inputs from Deepu Narayanan)