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Saturday, September 18, 2021

Discipline and dedication: How Rohit and Rahul’s simple formula thwarted England at Lord’s

Put into bat under testing conditions, Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul shed their ego and curbed their natural attacking instincts to give India the upper hand on Day 1.

Written by Rahul Sadhu |
Updated: August 13, 2021 8:24:05 am
Rohit Sharma, KL RahulIndia's Rohit Sharma, right smiles as he talks to teammate India's KL Rahul after taking 4 runs off the bowling off England's Sam Curran. (AP Photo)

For the first time in over a decade, a team bowling first at Lord’s after winning the toss failed to take a wicket in the first hour. This was because Rohit Sharma (83) and KL Rahul (127*) successfully negated the new-ball threat and became the first-ever Indian opening pair to register a century opening stand in Tests at the Lord’s in the 21st century.

Put into bat under testing conditions, the Indian openers shed their ego and curbed their natural attacking instincts and defended doggedly for the first half an hour of play. Only 11 runs were scored off the first 10 overs but most importantly no wicket was lost. In a tantalising first hour of play, Rohit and Rahul trusted their technique and temperament to tackle James Anderson and Ollie Robinson’s new-ball spell.

There was no unwarranted trigger movement or fancy footwork, just sticking to the basics — keeping the head still and watching the ball carefully and playing it late, allowing the ball to come to the batsman. What was also worked for both the batsmen was how well they left deliveries outside the off-stump, judging the ball as it moved both ways. There were a few nervy moments as well but fortunately did no harm.

The first boundary of India’s innings came in the 13th over when Sharma took on Sam Curran. Rohit cut loose and smashed four fours in that over, transferring the pressure right back on the home team. To counter the swing of Curran, Sharma was batted out of his crease ( probably somewhere 25cm from the white line) against the southpaw.

After settling down, Sharma, who has been under pressure for not being able to convert his starts into big scores, finally got the monkey off his back with a classy 83 of 145 balls.

English seamers were also guilty of bowling too much at the stumps, allowing him to score runs behind square on the legside. According to cricviz, more than half of his runs came in that zone.

While Rohit improved his strike rate as the innings progressed, his partner at the other end, KL Rahul dug deep and played each ball on its merit. At one stage, while Rohit was batting at 81 (off 122 balls), Rahul was on 18 (off 95 balls ) — a strike rate of 18.95. If Rohit left it alone, Rahul would compliment him by presenting a dead bat, which ensured that he negated the maximum chance of getting an edge.

Together they forged a wonderful chemistry as India brought up its first 100-run opening partnership in overseas Tests since December 2010 ( when Sehwag-Gambhir scored 137 runs vs SA in centurion). It took 11 years to put up another 100 run opening partnership in overseas (SENA) Tests for India.

Rohit was on course for his eighth Test century and a place on the Honours Boards at the home of cricket when Anderson got one to nip back off the seam and go through the right-handed opener’s gate to hit the top of the stumps. That ended a 126-run opening partnership.

A look at records

— Best opening stand at Lords in the last 47 years
— Best partnership in England in the last 14 years
— Best opening partnership in SENA in the last 10 years
— Best overseas opening partnership in last 4 years

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