India took on South Africa in the third and final Test of the series at Ranchi and though it was a dead rubber as far the series was concerned, there were points on offer for both teams to add to their World Championship tally.
India currently lead that table with 200 points from four games while the Proteas are stuck on zero points.
India made one change to their team, bringing in left-arm spinner Shabaz Nadeem for Ishant Sharma. After picking up 424 wickets at the first-class level, He became India’s 296th Test player.
The visitors made as many five changes with Henrich Klassen, Zubayr Hamza, Dane Peidt, Lungi Ngidi and George Linde making their way to the playing XI. Notably, Quinton de Kock will be opening the batting for the Proteas, alongside Dean Elgar.
A DAY FOR INDIA TO REMEMBER
An enthralling opening day was unfortunately cut short due to poor light in the evening, with only six overs bowled in the final session. India are well placed at 224-3 with Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane unbeaten at the crease.
Faf du Plessis has had worse luck with the coin than Aiden Markram with the bat away from home. After losing two consecutive tosses, he walked to the middle with Temba Bavuma and asked his team-mate to toss the coin. That didn’t make any difference as he was once again asked to field by his counterpart Virat Kohli. South Africa have now lost 10 tosses on the bounce in the subcontinent .
South Africa’s strength has always been their pace bowling and with their best spinner out injured, they opted to include all their speed merchants for this game. This meant that Vernon Philander had to miss out but the strategy did work with the bowlers troubling the Indian top-order on a fresh pitch with the new ball.
Kagiso Rabada’s opening spell was fiery as he found the perfect length to bowl at very quickly and was rewarded with two early wickets. His probing line right on off-stump had Mayank Agarwal nicking one to third slip before his inswinger trapped Cheteshwar Pujara LBW. This was the first time ever Pujara was dismissed for a duck in a Test match at home.
However, the biggest scalp of the morning went to Anrich Nortje when he caught Kohli plumb in front of the stumps, setting him up by bowling two balls that moved away from the right-hander followed by the one that came back in.
From 39/3, Rohit and Rahane batted extremely well to help India to a position of strength by the end of the second session. The duo counterattacked brilliantly post-lunch, scoring 134 runs in 29 overs. They set the record for the highest fourth-wicket partnership for Indian pair against South Africa with their unbeaten 185-run association.
ROHIT LIGHTS IT UP
Rohit helped himself to the third century of the series and became only the second Indian opener after the great Sunil Gavaskar to score three tons in the same series. He also broke Shimron Hetmyer’s record for the most sixes in a Test series during the course of his knock. Sharma has cleared the boundary 17 times in this series so far.
The opener has been particularly severe on off-spinner Dane Piedt, whom he has struck for 11 maximums in three innings. The 32-year-old also joined the elite group of openers to have scored nine international hundreds in a calendar year. Only Sachin Tendulkar (1998), Graeme Smith (2005) and David Warner (2016) have achieved this before.
Rahane who is in search of his first ton at home since 2016, played an able foil to Sharma’s brilliance with a classy knock at the other end.
South Africa are once again staring down the barrel on a pitch that displayed variable bounce on the opening day. However, the premature end to the proceedings should be a respite for the Proteas, allowing them to regroup and start afresh on Sunday.
Day 1, Stumps: India – 224/3 (Rohit 117*, Rahane 83*; Rabada 2-54)
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