Latest Match Report – India vs England 3rd Test 2023/24

India 326 for 5 (Rohit 131, Jadeja 110*, Sarbaras 62, Wood 3-69) vs England

On the first day of the third Test, India's batting finally came together, but not without early warning. Having slumped to 33 for 3 on a run-laden pitch, and with two debutants to follow, India were looking at potential trouble. But a 204-run partnership between Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja for the fourth wicket – India's first century of the series – put them at 326 for 5 at stumps. Rohit and Jadeja scored centuries while Sarfaraz Khan made a sparkling debut with a 66-ball 62 before being run-out.

It was the first time India had fielded two debutants in the first seven since the first Test in 1932, and the first time since 1999 that three players were in the first seven who had played fewer than two Tests. Mark Wood gave England a leg-up when he dismissed Yashvi Jaiswal and Shubman Gill, who scored India's only centuries in the series earlier on Thursday, with the new ball. Gill, in particular, got a ball that swung and was then swept, which took the outside edge. These two scalps doubled Wood's wicket tally in the first six overs of a Test innings.

The early morning humidity helped Wood to catch one off Tom Hartley in the ninth over, which took an edge off Rajat Patidar. A day before the Test match, Jadeja had said that England are not a difficult team to beat. The team management asked him to prove it by walking out from No. 5 in the ninth over, the second-ever walk to bat in a Test innings, and the start of the first innings.

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A promotion for Jadeja had a double meaning: protecting debutant Sarfaraz and introducing a left-handed batsman. Jadeja could have been forgiven for having a lot on his mind when he teamed up with Rohit as he missed Tests with a hamstring injury for the first time and a family feud went public, but he batted. A very unrestrained mind: Completely reacting to the next ball in an old-school style.

Rohit, who got off to a tremendous start, had to do something unconventional at the start of the partnership. Wood tried to bounce him through fine leg, deep backward square leg and deep forward square leg. Once, looking at the score and the situation, he decided not to hook and had to wear a helmet grill. He blamed James Anderson for slowing down the movement, on one occasion chipping one outside mid-on. With Hartley, he flew into the wind and against the turn. The first effort brought a four and the second an edge to slip, which was dropped by Joe Root.

Rohit will argue that it was the luck he needed after missing the first two Tests. By then, the early movement had begun to die down. After that errant chip from Anderson, Rohit came back to punch him through extra cover for four.

Jadeja looked no less than inside. Both took India to lunch. After lunch, Rohit became the 14th player to hit a six in the series. The added responsibility of being the leader of an inexperienced line-up confused his approach a bit, but now we see a regular Rohit. There were well-timed lofts, some paddle sweeps and lots of back-foot running. His second six took him past MS Dhoni's 78, with only Virender Sehwag ahead of him.

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As the momentum came from both ends, Jadeja began to catch up, hitting a six in the final over of the middle session for the first wicketless session of the series. Soon after tea, Rohit reached his 11th century with two easy couplets off two short balls from Rehan Ahmed. For a long time, the team management would have believed that the batsmen would not take risks and benefit from the inevitable loose balls. Like how Rohit scored his century.

Jadeja in particular was having it easy now. England had to go back to Wood's pace. A top edge from Jadeja clears long leg for 20 yards outside the fence. Rohit was taking frees from Rehan. Fifty runs came without breaking a sweat in 11 overs after tea. Then Rohit Wood pulls one, which is not enough to pull. It skids, goes big on him and is caught at midwicket.

Sarfaraz was already out in a whisper against fast short pitch bowling. That Wood started with a deep third, two men deep on the hook, a short leg and a catch to forward square leg suggested it was no mere whisper. Around the wicket he went and looked to bounce Sarbaras. He casually dismissed the first three. At the end of his spell, Wood insisted on one more over. Sarpras ducked again before dropping the yorker down the ground.

Without pace, Sarfaraz has shown remarkable flair against spin, no doubt helped by Ben Stokes' attacking fields. A series of one-twos followed: a seemingly inevitable shorter delivery, deep in the crease for a single, lofted over the infield. Legs move perfectly in line with the path of the ball, the sweep comes out early and the floors down the ground are executed perfectly. Before one realised, Sarfaraz had scored a fifty of 48 runs, the joint second fastest for an Indian debutant.

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Another Bible began to emerge. Jadeja was stuck in the 80s and 90s. By the time Sarfaraz scored 50 runs, Jadeja had scored only 12 runs. He had scored three hundreds but had four runs between 80 and 99. He became almost inert. Had Hartley revisited his lbw screamer against Jadeja, he would have dismissed him lbw bat-first for 93 runs.

Finally, on 99, Jadeja called Sarfaraz for an unlikely single and failed. Still slamming the door and looking at India, Rohit threw his hat in disgust in the dressing room. Jadeja scored a century on the very next ball, but the celebrations were dampened as Sarbaras got out one delivery before that. Jadeja knew there was still a lot of work to do on the second day as Kuldeep Yadav returned with an unbeaten 110.

Siddharth Monga is a senior writer at ESPNcricinfo

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