Nagpur: Skipper Rohit Sharma displayed class and composure of the highest order against a quality Australian bowling attack to notch his ninth Test hundred and take India to 226 for 5 at tea on the second day of the opening match, here on Friday.
On a slow track where other batters found run-scoring extremely difficult, the Indian captain (118 batting) was concentration personified on way to one of his best Test centuries.
The century effort had the same class as the 161 he scored in Chennai in 2021, with the opener putting his best food forward against the bowlers led by spinners Nathan Lyon (1/81 in 27 overs) and Todd Murphy (4/59 in 25 overs).
It took Rohit 171 balls to reach his hundred and so far he has hit 15 boundaries and two sixes off the 207 deliveries he has faced.
But the hallmark of his innings was the rotation of strike and how he traded risk for caution.
He didn't try to get to his hundred in a hurry, playing out maidens and taking singles before whipping Pat Cummins (0/50 on 11 overs) to square leg for a boundary that took his score in the 90s.
It was an inside-out lofted drive over extra cover off Murphy that brought up his hundred, and once again reiterated the theory that in adverse situations, individuals with the highest degree of skill prevail.
There weren't any over-the-top celebrations, no cuss words used or the customary ritual of removing the helmet. He just looked towards the dressing room in acknowledgement.
Perhaps, there was a lot of work left and he didn't want to waste his energy in celebration.
Ravindra Jadeja is once again showing his true worth, having added 58 runs for the sixth wicket.
Virat Kohli (12) and debutant Suryakumar Yadav (8) would be disappointed that they didn't score big.
In the case of Kohli, Murphy bowled a similar delivery to the former India skipper that had earlier accounted for Cheteshwar Pujara. The young spinner bowled on the fifth leg stump and a faint leg-side nick was taken on the second attempt by wicket-keeper Alex Carey.
Surya became Lyon's first victim as the off-break breached his defence.
In the morning, captain Cummins had set the bait for his opposite number with a deep fine leg and deep mid-wicket fielder but bowled fuller during his morning spell. Rohit brought his favourite pull shot out of the closet during the Australian skipper's second spell when a delivery was dug in short.
In fact, the low bounce made it easier to defend as both Rohit and Ashwin, during their 42-run stand, often plonked their front foot to frustrate the bowlers.
The pitch, however, hasn't shown signs of any further deterioration from what it was on the first day.
However, the slowness of the track did affect the Australian bowlers as both off-spinners, Lyon and Murphy, had to bowl quicker in order to get some purchase from the track. The slowness could be best gauged from the fact that Australia's second pacer Scott Boland (0/23 in 14 overs), who normally bowls upward of 135 clicks, asked wicket-keeper Alex Carey to keep up to him in order to prevent the batters from using their feet. PTI