SA vs Ind, 1st Test, Freedom Trophy 2021-22: KL Rahul's 122* helps India to 272-3
Top-class century from KL Rahul (122*) on Day 1 of Centurion Test put the visitors in solid position.
Brief Scores: India 272-3 (KL Rahul 122*, M Agarwal 60, L Ngidi 3-45) against South Africa at Stumps on Day 1
South Africa and India are up against each other in a three match Test series starting on the Boxing Day in Centurion. The tourists are aiming to win their maiden Test series victory in the Rainbow Nation.
Since 2006, they have won three Tests in South Africa but they will love to go one step ahead under the captaincy of Virat Kohli and coach Rahul Dravid under whose leadership India had tasted their maiden Test victory in that country 15 years back.
The 22-yard at SuperSport Park on Day 1
The pitch looked good enough to bat on with some layers of grass on it. With some rain in the lead-up to the Test match, the outfield was expected to be slow on the first day. History suggests that generally the SuperSport Park is a pacers’ paradise and should get faster as the game would progress.
India win toss, opt to bat
India captain Virat Kohli won the toss and elected to bat first and put scoreboard pressure on the opposition line-up. Even after an amazing home series, Shreyas Iyer had to warm the benches as India decided to go with four pacers including fast bowling all-rounder Shardul Thakur and lone spinner Ravichandran Ashwin.
The Proteas handed debut cap to left-arm pacer Marco Jansen and went with a four-pronged pace attack as Keshav Maharaj was the only spinner for them.
India openers build solid platform against rusty South Africa, take team to 83-0 at Lunch
The first session was exactly what India would hope for to kick off such a huge series. Both openers, KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal, responded brilliantly against the moving ball under cloudy conditions to stich an unbeaten opening partnership of 83.
The South African bowlers looked a bit rusty playing the longest format after a five-month break as most of them bowled quite wide of the stumps. Debutant Marco Jansen did produce an edge of Mayank Agarwal but wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock failed to grab the catch.
Overall, the Indian batters batted beautifully in this session and continued their good run of form as they survived more than 20-overs of play for the seventh time in 2021, a feat they were unable to attain even once in the decade before that.
Openers Rahul and Agarwal notched up half-centuries as South Africa made slim comeback in the game; India reached 157-2 at Tea
The second session began with Mayank Agarwal bringing up another half-century continuing his rich form from the home Tests. The pair batted significantly well as they brought up India’s 100-run opening partnership; the visitors 3rd such partnership in 21 Tests in South Africa and 2nd in Centurion.
Kagiso Rabada bowled a magnificent over in the middle which did ask some questions to both the set batters as it seemed like the home side had not realized their line and lengths to bowl. And eventually, Lungi Ngidi sent back half-centurion Agarwal with a ball that seamed back sharply to hit him on his pads. Cricket is a cruel game as India, on the very next ball, lost Cheteshwar Pujara for a golden duck. The Proteas got fired up as they welcomed India captain Virat Kohli in the crease.
Home leader Dean Elgar seemed to miss a trick there by not bringing Rabada for a short burst against the new batter. Soon, KL Rahul notched up his 13th Test fifty as he knew his job was still cut out. The pair of captain and vice-captain played the rest of the session quite handsomely ensuring that their side would enjoy sunny conditions in Centurion with two set men on the crease in the last session.
Vice-captain KL Rahul century takes India to a strong position, visitors 272-3 at stumps
The last session started as both the set batters looked for their upcoming milestones besides taking their side to a powerful position. Runs were coming thick and fast as South Africa were trying their best to alter the pair. And then, Virat Kohli played a ball a bit too wide of his reach. Lungi Ngidi striked again to send the Indian captain back to the hut for 35.
Ajinkya Rahane arrived at the crease with so much pressure on his shoulders to contribute given that his recent returns being too low considering the standards he has set in his career. His stay at the crease began with a beautiful straight delivery and gradually he looked confident since then. In his 81-ball 40* going at the end of the day, he hit wight boundaries and most of them were under control.
But the stand-out performance of the day was newly appointed vice-captain KL Rahul’s handsome century on Boxing Day. He becomes the second opening batter after Wasim Jaffer to score a Test ton in South Africa. He too joined visiting openers Saeed Anwar and Chris Gayle to have Test centuries in Australia, England and South Africa.
India ended the day with 272-3 on the board as the South Africa bowlers failed to deliver even with the new cherry. They were undoubtedly getting a bit tired.
What Lies Ahead on Day 2
Given that the weather forecast doesn’t look too good tomorrow and on the last day, India having got a solid platform would look to bat once with a massive score on the board. Rahane would specially would want to carry on to shut his critics once and for all. On the flipside of the coin, South Africa bowlers would look to make early inroads and India’s five bowler theory would provide them an extra push on a fresh day.
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