Pakistan secured a five-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the third and final one day international in Karachi on Wednesday, also emerging victorious in the three-match series 2-0.
A new career best for Lankan opener Danushka Gunathilaka led the visitors to a competitive 297-9 from their 50 overs but the score was chased down by Pakistan with 10 balls to spare.
Fakhar Zaman top-scored for the home team with 76 while fellow opener Abid Ali scored 74 before Haris Sohail contributed 56 lower down the order.
Pakistan won the second game by 67 runs while the first match was rained off without a ball being bowled, both in Karachi.
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.
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.