Visakhapatnam, October 2
Rohit Sharma struck an unbeaten 115 in his first innings as an opener in Test cricket, taking India to a commanding 202 for no loss before rain washed out the final session of the series-opener against South Africa. His opening partner Mayank Agarwal was on course for a maiden hundred, having played extremely well for his 183-ball 84.
There was an 80 percent chance of rain on the opening day of the Test, but it only arrived during the tea break. No play was possible after that due to a thunderstorm and a spell of heavy rain.
Before weather played spoilsport, Rohit stole the show in what could be a career-changing knock. While the South African bowlers did trouble the two openers on a few occasions in the first session, they seemed toothless in the second session, during which Rohit and Agarwal scored at a brisk rate. Rohit, who got to his 50 before lunch, shifted gears and was particularly harsh on the spinners. He hammered off-spinner Dane Piedt for successive sixes over deep midwicket to get into the 90s before completing his fourth Test ton with a single off debutant spinner Senuran Muthusamy. Rohit has so far hit 12 fours and five sixes in his 174-ball innings.
At the other end, Agarwal too looked assured and played his shots without fear. Early into the second session, he brought up his half-century with a spectacular six over extra-cover off left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj.
Earlier, Rohit and Agarwal played out 30 overs in the morning session, safely negotiating South African pacers Kagiso Rabada and Vernon Philander, taking India to 91 for no loss at lunch.
India opted to bat first on a dry wicket, with skipper Virat Kohli calling the decision a “no brainer.” Expecting the pitch to offer turn, South Africa picked up three spinners in Maharaj, Piedt and Muthusamy, who is more of a batting all-rounder.
All eyes were on Rohit, whose stop-start Test career has taken a new direction, being given the opener’s job. He left the first ball he faced, from Rabada, and then drove the next one past backward point for four, with minimal foot movement. His second scoring shot was also a boundary as he punched Philander to backward point.
There was little help for the bowlers from the wicket or conditions, and Rohit tried to negate any minor swing that was available by standing outside the crease when facing Philander. Rabada bowled quicker, but he did not test the Indian openers as much as Philander.
Philander, who had got Rohit for a duck in their warm-up match, challenged Rohit by moving the ball both ways in his opening spell of four overs. After getting the measure of the surface, Rohit went for his strokes, like he does in white-ball cricket.