Rohit Sharma fireworks set India up for final kill

After Rohit's second hundred of the match, South Africa is 384 runs shy of the target with its first innings century-maker Dean Elgar already dismissed.

Rohit Sharma celebrates scoring his second hundred of the Test.   -  AFP

India's newest Test opener Rohit Sharma gave yet another tantalising glimpse of his potential as India ended the day on the ascendancy having set South Africa a daunting target of 395 here at the ADC-VDCA Stadium on Saturday.

After Ravichandran Ashwin (7 for 145) had removed Keshav Maharaj and Kagiso Rabada to hand India a 71-run first-innings lead, Sharma (127, 149b, 10x4, 7x6) became the first Indian opener since Sunil Gavaskar to score two hundreds in one Test.

Day four: As it happened

The flamboyant right-hander played an array of big hits during his entertaining knock, and most of those elegant strokes had the crowd purring their approval.

His hat-trick of sixes against Dane Piedt in the 56th over — seventh six in the innings and 13th in the match — made him the batsman with most sixes in a Test. 

Sharma's 169-run second-wicket stand with Cheteshwar Pujara (81, 148b, 13x4, 2x6) effectively put the host on course for a big win. Pujara, who struggled for runs across the two Tests in the West Indies, signalled a return to form with a well-crafted 81.

Pujara flourished after a sedate start to score a vital 81. Photo: K.R. Deepak

 

Earlier, Mayank Agarwal, who has dominated most of the proceedings in the Vizag Test, was pushed on the backfoot by the South Africa bowlers.

Vernon Philander, bowling on a placid pitch with variable bounce, showed discipline and skill to keep India's top-run getter from the first-innings in check. It took Agarwal 20 balls to score a run off him. He was caught in the slips off Keshav Maharaj the next over for a 31-ball 7. The wicket was partly thanks to Philander, who built the pressure from the other end, with a barrage of dot balls.

READ | Rohit's twin hundreds make record books

Sharma, meanwhile, got stuck into Maharaj collecting two fours and as many sixes off him before lunch. And when he launched Piedt over long-off for a maximum — his third of the innings and ninth of the match — he became the Indian batsman with most sixes in a single Test going past Navjot Singh Sidhu's tally of eight.

The new batsman Pujara, who was undone by a beauty from Philander in the first-innings, was tied down at the other end by some disciplined bowling and smart field placements. Philander had a man on the drive at silly mid-on and short mid-wicket, and a short cover too. It wasn't just pace that kept him quiet though. 

India scored at a strike rate of 4.82 runs in the second innings.

 

The Saurashtra batsman, usually known for his proactive approach against spin, was finding the fielders before breaking free with three successive boundaries. The first one, coming in the 28th over, was lucky when he was beaten in the air by Piedt but got a thin inside edge to elude the keeper.

The next three balls he stepped out, threading the gaps with precision. And you knew Pujara had hit his stride when he slapped a Piedt delivery over mid-wicket for six. He got to his 21st Test fifty off 106 balls with a cracking cover-drive off Rabada, before being trapped in front by Philander 19 shy of a hundred.

Ravindra Jadeja and Virat Kohli  then dished out a slew of lusty blows in an enterprising fourth-wicket 47-run stand as India declared its second innings on 323/4. South Africa was 11/1 before bad light stopped play, Jadeja getting Dean Elgar out lbw.