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Rohit Sharma

Rohit makes ton in first innings as Test opener as India punish South Africa

Rohit Sharma marked his foray into Test match opening with his fourth career century as South Africa’s bowlers were rendered wicketless on the first day of their three-Test series against India.

On a truncated day, only 59.1 overs were bowled before rain in Visakhapatnam forced early tea, and subsequent abandonment of the day's play at 3.30pm IST.

South Africa's pace attack hardly fazed India's newest opening combination in Test cricket, while the visiting spinners were inconsistent and couldn't extract much off a day one surface. By stumps, India had marched on to 202/0, with Rohit unshaken at 115* and Mayank Agarwal having moved towards a maiden Test century of his own, batting on 84.

The century was Rohit’s fourth in 15 home innings. That’s in addition to five half-centuries, which leaves Rohit’s home Test average at 98.22 - on par with Sir Don Bradman among batsmen to have played 10 or more innings at home.

Even the crucial first  hour couldn’t produce much else apart from a few edges from both batsmen. Having accumulated 37 runs in the first 15 overs, India then hit the next gear in the second half of the morning, adding a further 54 in that time, and thereafter never lost ground.

Once into his groove, Rohit unfurled the full range of his strokes, the same repertoire with which he has set the limited-overs arena on fire over the last six years. He got off the mark with an uppish drive behind point, and largely made good connection playing off either foot.

Featured among his five sixes were the trademark skip down the track and loft over long-on and the slog through the line over midwicket. All five of his sixes came against spin, three off Keshav Maharaj and two off Dane Piedt, and three of them went over the long-on region. The first of those brought up the fifty of the opening stand, while the fourth took Rohit into his 90s.

He followed up the fifth with back-to-back boundaries off Vernon Philander in the next over to put India on the brink of 200. Agarwal raised the landmark with four on the first ball of the next over, off Maharaj again, shortly before the covers came on.

Like Rohit, Agarwal got off the mark with a four off Philander, in the third ball of the innings to set the tone early for South Africa’s long and fruitless day. A fluid strokemaker in his own right, Agarwal did offer a chance or two here and there, but with edges flying between fielders, nothing could separate India’s opening duo on this day.

Agarwal used his feet confidently and pierced the gaps in the field precisely with his drives. He also displayed acute awareness of his fields to open the face of his bat and beat the slip cordon to collect his runs.

Mayank Agarwal
Mayank Agarwal

He brought up his fifty in style, with an inside-out drive for six off Maharaj. Though he was outscored, and also a tad overshadowed by the brilliance of Rohit and the focus around his attempt at becoming a top-order batsman in Test cricket, Agarwal played some delightful strokes of his own.

Wearing a thin look on the fast bowling front after deciding to stock up on their spin resources, South Africa’s day was summed up by the fact that between them, their three main spinners Maharaj, Piedt and Senuran Muthuswamy conceded 132 runs in 35 overs.

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