Rishabh finally scores hundred at home & adds 113 with Sundar to kick out England’s advantage

Rishabh Pant changed his game-plan and in turn India’s fortunes with a magnificent century, helping the side snatch control from England’s grip to finish the second day at a robust 294 for 7 in the final Test here on Friday.

England dominated the first two sessions and India looked in all sorts of trouble before Pant (101 off 118 balls) suddenly decided to catch the opposition by the scruff of their necks, effortlessly changing gears in company of Washington Sundar (60, 117 balls, 8×4).

The duo added 113 runs in 26 overs but more importantly, landed an exquisite ‘left-hook’ on England’s hopes of turning party-poopers, having already conceded a first innings lead of 89 runs.

At stumps, Washington was still at the crease with Axar Patel (11). For someone, who has always been panned for his lack of game awareness, it was Pant 2.0 at play where he defended when it was necessary but unlocked his brutal attacking instincts when required.

The first 50 came off 82 balls and the next off 33 balls with Washington being the ideal foil, holding one end well en route to his third half century in Test cricket. Just like playing a single spinner in the third Test was a blunder, England paid the price for playing a bowler short as their main four got tired during the final session.

In Virender Sehwag style, Pant deposited Dom Bess into the ‘cow corner’ of the stands against the turn, to complete his third Test hundred, first at home, having missed at least five in recent years.

When he finally got out, Root’s frustrated expression was a dead giveaway that the match was now out of hand for England, having conceded as many as 141 runs in a single session.

Pant had hit 13 fours and two sixes during an innings which, in all likelihood, will earn him the ‘Man of the Match’ award.

Ben Stokes (22-6-73-2) troubled the Indians with reared up deliveries, one of those got skipper Virat Kohli (0), but there was no trouble for Pant, who would gleefully pull the England all-rounder.

The audacity with which he came down the track against Anderson (20-11-40-3), depositing him over extra cover for a boundary, could have taken anyone’s breath away.

So subtly Pant changed the pace of his innings, that even Root didn’t know what hit his team which looked in control when India went into the tea at 153 for 6.

Pant was then batting on 36, defending the deliveries that would turn and jump off the rough while playing Anderson and Stokes judiciously.

England till then had maintained the shine of the ball well but post tea as the ball got soft, Pant took charge.

With Washington looking solid at the other end, Root asked Jack Leach (23-5-66-2) to come round the wicket and the idea played into Pant’s hands as the visitors didn’t attack the rough areas enough. It was one fascinating day of Test cricket where flamboyant players like Rohit Sharma (49 off 144 balls) and Pant traded their natural attacking instincts for a more conservative approach.

The pitch wasn’t very difficult to bat on but certainly not as easy as Pant made it look with his devil-may-care approach which later rubbed on Sundar.

Saturday, 06 March 2021 | PTI | Ahmedabad

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