India v South Africa: Mayank Agarwal overshadows Rohit Sharma and other talking points as hosts take control

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A special day for Mayank Agarwal. Image credit - BCCI/Twitter.

An eventful Day Two in the first Test between India and South Africa saw the hosts consolidate their grip on the clash after a superb double ton from opener Mayank Agarwal.

Virat Kohli’s men rode on the superb display from the 29-year-old batsman to post a mammoth total of 502-7 before declaring their first innings.

In response, South Africa were left reeling at 39-3 by India’s spinners before stumps were drawn at Visakhapatnam.

After what was yet another fruitful day for India, we look at the key takeaways.

Agarwal cashes in on good pitch

India started the day at 202-0 with Rohit Sharma looking to kick-on from his excellent ton on opening debut. However, it was his partner Agarwal who took the spotlight on the second day with the Karnataka batsman registering his maiden Test ton before going on to double his tally in the afternoon session.

The two openers forged India’s first 300-plus partnership since Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane racked up a 365-run stand for the fourth wicket against New Zealand in October, 2016.

While Rohit’s 176-run knock was ended by Keshav Maharaj, Agarwal continued to march on in imperious fashion before raising his bat for the second time in the day.

It was just reward for the 28-year-old’s perseverance after he had previously failed to convert good starts in the 2018 tour of Australia.

With young Prithvi Shaw currently suspended for a doping violation, Agarwal might have just made the opening spot his own for the near future along with Rohit.

Maharaj’s long toil bears some fruit

With India’s openers making merry at Vizag, South Africa’s bowlers were put through the grind for the better part of four sessions. While the position the visitors currently find themselves in is unenviable, the tireless display of Keshav Maharaj deserves a special mention.

The left-armed orthodox spinner bowled as many as 55 overs over the course of the two days with South Africa’s two other spinners bowling just the 34 overs between them.

While there isn’t much for the visitors to shout home about after two poor days, Maharaj can hold his head high after picking up the three prized scalps of Rohit, Ajinkya Rahane and Hanuma Vihari.

It was Maharaj’s toil that saw the hosts suffer a mini-collapse in the middle-order and go from a position of absolute strength at 317-0 to 457-6.

The 29-year-old might not possess the variations that the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin have but he showed that there is still a place for old-school orthodox spinners who rely just on one stock delivery.

Maharaj does the long toil. Image credit - ICC/Twitter.

Maharaj does the long toil. Image credit – ICC/Twitter.

India spinners rattle South Africa

The threat of more rain ahead forced Kohli to declare much earlier than he would have liked but it also ensured that South Africa had to survive 20 uncomfortable overs before the close of play.

It was a task at which the Proteas failed miserably with India’s formidable spin attack wasting no time in making their presence known. Just four overs of pace with the new-ball was enough for Kohli to unleash his spinners into the bowling attack and mayhem ensued immediately.

Ravchandran Ashwin was the first to strike with the veteran sending Aiden Markram’s stumps flying with a ripper of an off-spinner. The 33-year-old had his second scalp moments later after some superb wicketkeeping from Wriddimah Saha saw Theunis de Bruyn stumped by the barest of margins.

It went from bad to worse for South Africa before the end of play with Ravindra Jadeja getting in on the action at Vizag. The left-armed spinner’s arm-delivery gave nightwatchman Dane Piedt no chance with the visitors collapsing to 34-3.

With three days still to go in the Test and the amount of turn already available, the Proteas face a tough time ahead if they are to walk away from the game with anything other than a defeat.

For Ashwin, it was the perfect riposte after the off-spinner had fallen out of favour in recent overseas tours and he is now just six wickets away from becoming the joint fastest player in history to claim 350 Test dismissals.

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