Centurion, December 26: KL Rahul’s scored the seventh century of his Test career as India started off brilliantly in the Centurion Test, ending day one on 272/3.
Calling correct at the toss, Indian skipper Virat Kohli chose to bat first in overcast conditions on a pitch that had a tinge of green on it. But it proved to be the right call as openers KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal showed a great amount of discipline, especially in the first 30 minutes.
They were especially cautious against Kagiso Rabada, playing out his spell by leaving most of the deliveries. Once the ball started getting older, they opened up the blade, playing some lovely shots and driving brilliantly. Agarwal was the aggressor while Rahul was a bit more watchful.
The scorecard started ticking as South African skipper Dean Elgar started to rotate his bowlers in search of a breakthrough. Debutant Marco Jansen did carve out an opening, getting a ball to move away and bounce from a full length which caught the edge off Agarwal’s bat. Quinton de Kock though, could not hold on to the catch as it proved to be a major reprieve for India.
The visitors clearly end up winning the session, scoring 83 runs in 28 overs without losing a single wicket as it was a job well done from the Indian openers.
Agarwal continued in the same vein in the afternoon session, bringing up a brilliant half-century, the sixth of his career. The partnership between the opening pair also crossed the 100-run mark as the hosts were in dire need of some inspiration.
They got exactly that from Lungi Ngidi, who was bowling a much more disciplined line and length in the afternoon session. Shattering Agarwal’s pad, the initial decision was a not out from the umpire. But it turned out to be a brilliant review from Elgar as the replays showed all three red lines, as the opener walked back to the pavilion for 60.
The very next delivery brought the scalp of Cheteshwar Pujara as the ball moved back in just enough as the No.3 inside-edged it onto his pads and then into the grateful hands of Keegan Petersen. With the double-strike, there was a visible shift in the momentum of the game as India now had to rebuild again.
Rahul continued in his merry ways, playing some breathtaking strokes as he brought up a classy half-century. But the onus was on him to convert it into a big one as he was joined by skipper Kohli at the crease.
The pair saw through some challenging South African bowling for the remainder of the session, heading into tea at 157/2.
It was a positive start for India in the final session with KL Rahul continuing to look serene while Kohli was also growing in confidence. But Kohli’s frustrating search for a big score continued as he perished against Ngidi after a phase of consistent bowling by the Proteas. Ngidi pushed the delivery full and wide and Kohli couldn’t resist having a dart at it, edging it to walk back for 35.
Ajinkya Rahane joined Rahul at the crease and was looking in good nick, playing some brilliant shots dealing exclusively in boundaries at the start. Meanwhile, Rahul was closing in on what would be a brilliant ton away from home.
Rahul reached the landmark against Keshav Maharaj to bring up his seventh century as his resurrection as an opener in the Test arena continued.
The pair would see through the remainder of the session with Rahul unbeaten on 122 and Rahane (40*) to make put the visitors in charge. South Africa will now hope for some early breakthroughs at the start of day two to claw back into the contest.