Chennai, Feb 13: A counter-attacking 161 (off 231 balls) by Rohit Sharma and his 162-run partnership with Ajinkya Rahane (67) helped India reach 266 for five wickets an hour after tea on the first day of the second Test against England at the MA Chidambaram Stadium here on Saturday.
Sharma, who was struggling to get a big score since his return to Test cricket last month, took the attack to the English bowlers as he hit 18 fours and two sixes.
The 33-year-old had raced to 80 off 78 deliveries (13x4s, 1x6) to take India to 106 for three wickets at lunch despite India losing three wickets.
On a pitch that aided turn from very early and on which left-arm spinner Jack Leach was introduced as early as the eighth over of the match, Sharma looked in control and put India in the driver's seat before a couple of wickets late in the first session gave Joe Root's side some relief.
India had lost Shubman Gill early with the team total at zero. But then Sharma and No. 3 Cheteshwar Pujara shared an 85-run partnership for the second wicket to help India move into commanding position. The partnership was dominated by Sharma as he unleashed his strokes.
However, just as they looked like they were taking the game away from England, the spinners got into action. Leach got rid of Pujara having him caught at slip by Ben Stokes.
Soon after, off-spinner Moeen Ali, who was proving expensive, spun one back in through the gap between skipper Virat Kohli's (0) bat and pad to reduce India to 86 for three.
India had won the toss and elected to bat. The hosts made three changes to the side that lost the first Test by 227 runs. They rested pace bowler Jasprit Bumrah and brought in Mohammed Siraj. Left-arm spinner Axar Patel, who is making his Test debut, and Chinaman Kuldeep Yadav replaced left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem and off-spinner Washington Sundar, respectively.
For England, pace bowler Stuart Broad came in for James Anderson, Olly Stone replaced the injured Jofra Archer and picked the wicket of Gill. Off-spin bowling all-rounder Moeen Ali replaced Dom Bess while Ben Foakes replaced Jos Buttler who has gone back to England.
Brief scores (After 79 overs, Day 1): India 266/5 (R Sharma 161, A Rahane 67; J Leach 2/78, M Ali 2/95)