Having secured a 1-0 lead in the three-match series with a 203-run win at Vizag, India put themselves in the driving seat at Pune as well on a day which saw some fantastic battles between bat and ball.
The hosts looked to be in a position of strength in their first innings at 273-3 before bad light brought a slightly premature end to the day’s proceedings at Pune.
Both Agarwal and Kohli are among the discussion as we look at the key talking points from Day One.
Pace-friendly Pune track springs a surprise
All the talk ahead of the second Test at Pune had centered how spin-friendly the pitch would be, given the past history at the ground.
The only previous Test held at Pune in 2017 had ended in a shock loss for India with Steve Smith guiding Australia to a famous victory on a pitch which turned out to be a minefield for spinners.
That Test lasted just three days with ICC giving the pitch a ‘poor’ rating subsequently, and it remains the only loss at home in Virat Kohli’s red-ball captaincy for India. There would be no such encore this time around though, with both India and South Africa lining up with three-man pace attacks in their respective playing XIs when they took the field on Thursday.
India’s sole change was an interesting one in the regard that they dropped a batsman in the form of Hanuma Vihari to make way for Umesh. Proteas, on the other hand, went for a more like-for-like replacement by sticking with a five-man bowling attack.
The two skippers had definitely read the pitch right in hindsight with spinners barely finding any joy on the opening day, while there was some assistance for fast bowlers, especially in the morning session.
Agarwal makes it two tons in a row as Rohit fails
India’s openers Rohit Sharma and Mayank Agarwal had made merry in the Vizag Test with the former registering twin centuries while the latter slammed a magnificent double-hundred. \
Rohit couldn’t have asked for a better debut in the opening slot, but the right-hander would find no such joy at Pune with Kagiso Rabada ending his vigil early.
Rohit’s innings was cut short at only 14 with Rabada finding his edge with a peach of an outswinger which forced the right-hander to play at the delivery. There were no such troubles for his partner Mayank, however, with the Karnataka man looking solid at the crease once again.
The 28-year-old weathered the early storm against Rabada and Vernon Philander before upping the ante in the post-lunch session against the spinners. The confidence in Agarwal’s batting was exemplified by the manner in which he struck Keshav Maharaj for two consecutive sixes to reach 99.
Soon after, the India opener was celebrating his second Test ton in as many matches with his excellent knock helping the hosts establish early dominance at Pune.
Fiery Rabada leads Proteas charge with the ball
Kagiso Rabada did not have the best of games in the opening Test with just the solitary wicket to show for his efforts.
However, the 24-year-old looked a completely different beast on a helpful Pune track and he almost single-handedly kept the Proteas in the game on Day One in the second Test.
The fast bowler was used sparingly by skipper Faf du Plessis in short spells throughout the day and that strategy paid dividends for the visitors with Rabada grabbing three wickets. Although he was erratic at times and overstepped on no less than four separate occasions, the intensity and ferocity in his bowling never dipped at any point.
His delivery to snare Rohit’s wicket early in the day was a nearly unplayable one before he came back in the second session to remove the well set Cheteshwar Pujara (58) with another outswinger.
Just when the visitors looked like they were running out of ideas against centurion Agarwal, Rabada came to their rescue once again by getting the ball to kick-off sharply from a length in the final session.
Those three wickets in as many sessions from the young pace icon means that the Proteas have not allowed India to significantly pull away just yet.
Kohli looking ominous
Coming into the Pune Test, the India skipper had endured a lean year by his supreme standards with his seven Test innings in 2019 failing to yield a single century.
That looks like it could change on Friday with the 29-year-old coming out like a man determined to the crease on the opening day of the Test.
South Africa and Rabada were sniffing blood late in the day when Agarwal fell, but Kohli ensured there would be no further hiccups for the hosts with a fluent and unbeaten half-century. Even as his deputy Ajinkya Rahane struggled to rotate the strike at the other end, Kohli looked in complete control against both pacers and spinners alike as he threaded 10 boundaries through the infield.
The right-hander was unperturbed even when the visitors took the second new-ball late in the day, and he looks well on course to bring up his 26th Test ton and a first in nearly 10 months.
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