Virat Kohli posted his highest Test score after becoming the first Indian to score seven double centuries to leave South Africa demoralised in Pune.
The hosts’ captain hit 254 not out, bettering by 11 his previous format best from almost two years and going past 7,000 Test runs in the process, in a total of 601 for five declared on day two of the second Test.
Having completed his 26th Test hundred – and first of the year – in the morning session, Kohli attacked after lunch and, by reaching 150 for the ninth time, broke Australian Don Bradman’s record of most 150-plus scores as captain.
Kohli also eclipsed national heroes Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag with his seventh double ton and only Bradman (12), Kumar Sangakkara (11) and Brian Lara (nine) have more.
He eventually brought an end to his 336-ball innings, which included two sixes and 33 fours, having shared stands of 178 with Ajinkya Rahan (59) and 225 with Ravindra Jadeja (91 off 104 balls).
However, the torment did not end there for the tourists after they were reduced to 36 for three at stumps, 565 behind, with left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj taken for precautionary scans on a shoulder problem.
India lead the three-match series 1-0.
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It could not have been a more chastening start to Misbah-ul-Haq’s tenure as Pakistan head coach and chief selector with the Men in Green ending up on the receiving end of a 3-0 T20I whitewash at the hands of Sri Lanka on home soil.
That it came against a second-string Sri Lanka side missing as many as 10 senior players was even more embarrassing and it has led Misbah to openly question the domestic system of the No1 ranked T20I outfit in the world.
“This series has been an eye-opener for us and everyone else. These same players have been around for a while now,” the Pakistan coach stated after his side’s 13-run loss in the final T20 at Lahore.
“It is more or less the same team which made us No1 and has been playing together for around three to four years now.
“The result of series is also an eye-opener for our system as well. If we can lose to a side without its main players how did we think we were number one?”
While Misbah has questioned his side’s T20I credentials, his own selections including the recalls handed to Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad have been criticized by many in Pakistan’s cricket circles.
Pakistan’s rise to the top of the T20I rankings under previous head coach Mickey Arthur was an impressive one with the Men in Green winning 11 series on the bounce before running out of steam in the current year.
Misbah, however, has scoffed at any suggestions that the change in Pakistan’s T20 fortunes is due to a change of coach and strategy.
“I haven’t done anything in the last 10 days that could have deterred anything,” he quipped.
“If you want to put responsibility on me you can but in this brief time since I took charge how big a difference could I created with my coaching? The strategy was simple – to cash in on the powerplay and later go all out in the last five overs.
“These are the same players who took Pakistan on top but in this series they were not able to execute things well with the bat, ball and while fielding.”
A visibly irritated Misbah even resorted to sarcasm on being further prodded on the team’s failure in his first T20I series in charge as head coach.
“Maybe I did something? Probably I made our right-hand batsmen switch to left-handed batting or maybe made our right-handers bowl with the left arm or vice-versa? In terms of strategy, nothing really has changed but I am thinking what went wrong,” the former Pakistan skipper stated.
With the T20I World Cup in Australia just over a year away, Pakistan will have to quickly rediscover their magic touch if they are contend for the trophy. Their next T20I test will come on Australian soil as well with the team set to play three matches against the hosts beginning on November 3 at Sydney.
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.