Much before the second Test between India and South Africa got underway at the MCA International Stadium, the cricketing fraternity was busy debating how the surface would behave.
With the region witnessing incessant rains over the fortnight, even the ground staff weren’t too convinced whether the pitch will aid the batters or the pacers. The moisture in the pitch was expected to be encouraging enough for the fast bowlers.
But when the ball finally got rolling, Mayank Agarwal dished out a solid knock of 108 to make sure India’s batsmen had the upper hand. Riding on his flawless knock, the host ended Day 1 on a strong 273-3.
Rohit falls early
With the expectations rising high after his power-packed double century against the Proteas in the first Test in Vizag, the 28-year-old opening batsman knew it would be a challenging task to tackle the Kagiso Rabada-Vernon Philander duo in a supposedly seam-friendly track.
But that had very little impact on the young gun who relied on his natural game. Even though he looked jittery in the first hour of the play — he was tested by the short ball — Mayank did not let it slip.
The slow but steady approach not only helped him spread wings, but also allowed India to take control of the game despite losing Rohit Sharma early in the innings.
After back-to-back tons in the first Test, Rohit failed to keep the momentum going in the second and was caught behind by Quinton de Kock off Rabada for just fourteen.
Pujara holds fort
With Rohit departing early, the onus was on Mayank and Cheteshwar Pujara. And on the expected lines, the two took to the South African bowlers to task.
The two stitched a 138-run partnership for the second wicket, with Pujara scoring 58. With forecasts of rain, it was important for India to stay on course and the seasoned Pujara allowed his younger team-mate to fly, while holding fort at the other end. Pujara looked set for a longer innings, but was caught behind by Faf du Plessis for 58 off Rabada.
Ten overs after his exit, Agarwal was caught by du Plessis at the slips, again off Rabada. On a day when the South African bowling unit looked hapless, Rabada was the only one to enjoy success as he claimed all the three wickets. While Philander did manage to create a few chances, it turned out to be a disappointing day for debutant Anrich Nortje.
The day solely belonged to India as captain Virat Kohli (batting on 63) and Ajinkya Rahane (18*) combined for an unbroken 75-run partnership for the fourth wicket on Thursday.
After a rather disappointing outing in the first Test, where he managed to score 20 and 31, it was an opportunity for Kohli to bounce back in his 50th Test as a skipper: he looked on course for a big score.
Bad light forced the umpires to call off the day early.
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