India’s quest for a record 11th consecutive home series win started on a strong note with their openers making hay against South Africa in the opening day of the first Test against South Africa at Visakhapatnam.
The hosts had raced away to 202 without any loss in just over 59 overs before bad light and subsequent rain brought an early halt to proceedings on Day One.
After what was a completely lopsided day for the hosts, we take a look at the key talking points from Vizag.
India openers break century partnership drought
India’s lack of big opening partnerships since the turn of 2017 had started to become a concern with just two century stands to show for during the period. That all changed on Wednesday with Rohit Sharma and Mayank Agarwal racking up a double-century stand for equal measure.
On a dry pitch with not much assistance for the seamers, India’s two openers were circumspect to start with but were soon in complete control as they imposed their dominance over the Proteas bowlers.
The duo added 91 runs in the opening session at Vizag before upping the ante even further after lunch. Rohit was the first to breach the 50-run mark and the limited-overs stalwart was soon racing away to his fourth Test ton after some fine attacking play against the South Africa spinners.
Agarwal, too, looked on song as he notched up his highest Test score (84 not out) for India and the 28-year-old will hope to register his maiden ton when the match resumes on Day Two.
Rohit justifies faith as opener
The talk before the series began had hovered around Rohit’s inclusion as an opener with skipper Virat Kohli making it clear that the team management was ready to provide the limited-overs vice-captain with a long rope in the position.
With a Test batting average greater than 80 in home conditions, Rohit wasted no time in seizing his chance despite some nervous moments early into his innings. The 32-year-old looked a completely different beast at the crease once South Africa’s three-man spin attack was introduced as he made the boundary ropes look small with each passing over.
It did not take long for Rohit to bring up his fourth Test ton with the help of four sixes and 10 boundaries and he brought the entire Indian dressing room to its feet in doing so. The glee on skipper Kohli’s face was evident with Rohit more than justifying his Test inclusion with an assured innings.
Rohit, however, didn’t celebrate much and the Mumbai man looks determined to ensure that his century ends up being a big one.
Proteas staring down the barrel already
The rueful smile that Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis flashed in the direction of his team-mates after losing the toss to Kohli spoke a thousand words.
The South Africa stalwart knew his team were in for the long haul after India elected to bat first and his worst fears were confounded after his new-ball attack of Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada lost its sting inside the opening hour.
The visitors sprang a surprise by going in with a three-man spin bowling attack for the Test and it was clear to see why with the ball taking sharp turn on the first day. Still, that prodigious turn did little to help South Africa’s cause with India’s openers making merry with a run-fest at Vizag.
The concerns will only grow for South Africa as the Test progresses with the pitch expected to become slower in the coming days.
India’s spin duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja will be licking their lips in anticipation after watching the first day of action unfold. And the writing seems to be already on the wall for the visitors who could be potentially batting on a minefield in the final innings.
For now, Proteas will be hoping for some divine intervention and their best hope could come from the weather with more rains predicted in the coming days at Vizag.
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