3rd Test: Rohit, Rahane, runs and rain in Ranchi
- India were down to 39/3 with Rohit still not in his elements.
- The game changed from there as Rahane took charge of the situation.
- Rahane started pushing the scoring rate and the pressure eased with his flowing drives and exquisite flicks.
That was Rohit Sharma's story here on Saturday but it was South Africa's story, too. After an encouraging start to this third Test in the morning, when they picked up three Indian wickets, they were made more insignificant than even the weather. Making five changes (two forced by injury of course) to the eleven that played in Pune did not help.
As a middle-order batsman turned opener, this must be the most satisfying one of the three hundreds as Rohit had to get through a hostile spell of pace bowling from Kagiso Rabada. Exploiting the overcast conditions, Rabada swung the ball both ways to pick up Mayank Agarwal and Cheteshwar Pujara. He posed problems for Rohit, too, squaring him up on a couple of occasions but missing the edge. In one instance, he tested Rohit with a bouncer and he went for a hook. The top edge sailed over the deep fine leg fielder.
Rohit's first shot with authority came off Lungi Ngidi, soon after Rabada's 7-4-15-2 first spell. Perhaps Ngidi got fooled by Rohit's difficulty with Rabada, and made the mistake of pitching short. Rohit would send those balls to the boundary even in Durban or Perth, let alone Ranchi. But his discomfort was not to go away soon because the match situation worsened for India in the next over.
Virat Kohli was set up well by young Anrich Nortje for a straight ball that he missed. Umpire Nigel Llong did not take too much time in raising the finger but the review showed it was not as plumb as it looked. Nevertheless, India were down to 39/3 with Rohit still not in his elements.
The game changed from there as Ajinkya Rahane took charge of the situation. Throughout the day, what troubled the batsmen was the full-length delivery. The first three deliveries Rahane faced were all in that length but he played all of them with the middle of the bat, scoring off two of them. He started pushing the scoring rate and the pressure eased with his flowing drives and exquisite flicks.
That was all Rohit needed to come into his own. Rabada found his edge soon after lunch but it did not carry to slips, going through for four runs instead. The first sign of Rohit's unstoppable day came when Ngidi bowled to him with a silly mid-off for the mistimed drive. That fielder there on the first day of the Test spoke volumes about the pitch but Rohit still went for the drive as Ngidi pitched it up. As if to send the message that he will not be dictated by where the fielders are, Rohit drove in the air but the ball went like a bullet past the man before he could even move.
Only rain could stop Rohit and Rahane after that and it did six overs after tea. But by then, Rohit had notched up his sixth Test ton.
The other 'star' of the day was Shahbaz Nadeem, who got his Test cap from captain Virat Kohli in the morning -- fruits of labour for someone who has toiled hard for the last one and a half decade at nondescript grounds, mostly away from the camera, yet picked up more than four hundred first-class wickets.