The hosts were reduced by a Kagiso Rabada-led bowling attack to 39/3 in the first session of day one when Rahane joined Rohit at the crease. From there, the duo ruthlessly negated South Africa, in a fourth-wicket stand of 267, to set up another colossal first-innings total for India.
Rohit, who made 212 from 255 balls, said that after they were forced to begin cautiously due to the early losses, it was Rahane who wrested the initiative back for the home team post-lunch.
"Our plan was very simple," Rohit said on Sunday, 20 October. "When we knew there was something in the pitch for the bowler, we just wanted to respect that spell, and we knew the time will come for us to get those runs in the second session, so we just wanted to play the first session out cautiously, and then see where we stand [at] lunch.
💥 200 FOR ROHIT SHARMA 💥— ICC (@ICC) October 20, 2019
He's recorded three double centuries in ODI cricket, and now he has one in Tests too 👀
What a knock this has been from the India opener!
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"Once we got out in the middle after lunch, it was Ajinkya who started taking that momentum, and it was he who actually got us the momentum. If I'm not wrong, he was batting on 40 off 43 balls just around the first drinks after lunch, which means we capitalised on the loose balls, we got those singles as well, so the rotation of strike was happening every now and then, which is always good for a batsman.
"When you keep changing strike, it doesn't allow the bowler to keep bowling there, because different batsmen, different style of play, the bowlers have to adjust their length as well, so I think we did that pretty well, particularly Ajinkya. He came out and started playing his shots, and from there he never looked back. The partnership after that kept growing."
Rohit said that this kind of rescue act was nothing new from Rahane, who scored his first Test century at home in over three years, before being dismissed for 115.
🚨 11th TEST CENTURY 🚨— ICC (@ICC) October 20, 2019
After three years and 16 Tests against seven different opponents,
Ajinkya Rahane finally has his fourth Test hundred in India! 🙌
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"We've seen Ajinkya for so many years, the way his Test career has progressed, and whenever the team has been in a difficult situation, he's come and rescued us," Rohit said. "And this isn't something he's done just once or twice, he's done it in many innings. This shows how strong he is, mentally, and how much hunger he has, to be able to steer the team out of bad situations.
"We've seen it outside India, we've seen it in India as well, so Ajinkya's Test graph, it's climbing one step at a time, and there can't be anything better for the team, because if your middle order is strong, whatever situation comes, you're confident that one guy will always put his hand up and take the team forward."