The spotlight was firmly on Rohit Sharma after India skipper Virat Kohli won the toss and elected to bat first against South Africa in the first Test at Visakhapatnam.
The 32-year-old’s inclusion in the Test squad had raised plenty of eyebrows with his previous failure in overseas tours still afresh in the minds of Indian cricket fans.
While a home Test century might not detract his critics, Rohit made the most of his opportunity by registering a fine ton against the Proteas on the opening day at Vizag.
Here, we take a closer look at Rohit’s unbeaten batting display.
Balls Faced: 174
Opening the batting for India for the first time in his Test career, Rohit started cautiously before hitting his full stride after the first hour. Along with Mayank Agarwal, the right-hander brought up India’s first century-plus opening stand in more than a year with South Africa’s bowlers finding it tough on Day One.
The limited-overs deputy skipper registered his 11th Test fifty at the stroke of lunch and soon charged into another gear as he brought up his fourth ton in the format in the same session.
His unbeaten 202-run partnership along with Agarwal is the first time India’s openers have put on a double-century stand since Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul put on 283 runs against Bangladesh all the way back in June 2015.
The right-handed batsman had never previously opened the batting in the first innings, even at first-class level, but he looked imperious at the crease when finally given the chance.
After enduring some uncomfortable moments against Vernon Philander with the new-ball, Rohit quickly changed his modus operandi against the South Africa seamer by stepping out of his crease at every possible occasion. That ploy even forced wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock to stand up to the stumps against Philander and the seamer was soon being forced off the bowling attack.
That move brought on South Africa’s spinners into the attack much earlier than Faf du Plessis would have wanted and it worked in Rohit’s favour with the opener unleashing some monstrous sixes against the slower bowlers.
After being dismissed for a second-ball duck by Philander in the preceding warm-up game, Rohit showed the same vulnerability against the Proteas seamer in the opening few minutes at Vizag. The right-hander was nearly sucked into committing the same mistake by Philander after unnecessarily flashing at deliveries pitched outside the off-stump.
He also inexplicably shouldered arms to a good-length delivery pitching on middle-stump against the same bowler. Luckily for India and Rohit, the ball ultimately bounced just over the stumps to leave Philander and the visitors dumbfounded.
VERDICT – 9/10
The pressure was definitely on Rohit to deliver after all the scrutiny he has received in the build-up to the series and he more than delivered with a sparkling knock which only got better as the day progressed.
He did not let his concentration waver after surviving the early testing period and his sedated century celebrations told a story of its own. The Nagpur native definitely looks to be in the mood to covert his knock into a double ton, if not better, and that doesn’t bode well for the visitors.
All four of his Test tons might have come on home soil so far but Rohit and the Indian team management are definitely not complaining after that display on Wednesday.
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