India vs South Africa: Rohit Sharma puts India within sight of victory
VISAKHAPATNAM: It's a Test match Rohit Sharma will not forget in a hurry. Pitchforked into the role of an opener in the first Test against South Africa, he held centre-stage with a century on the opening day before going on to score 176. On Saturday, faced with a situation where the team needed quick runs, he was in the thick of action again, scoring his second century in the Test and setting the game up for India.
The first Indian opener to achieve the feat in 41 years — Sunil Gavaskar did it last in 1978 — Rohit dealt in boundaries and a world record of sixes during his second-innings 127 (149b; 10x4, 7x6) — including three successive shots for the maximum off Senuran Muthusamy — after losing his partner Mayank Agarwal early in the second innings.
With offie R Ashwin claiming his fifth seven-wicket haul, South Africa were dismissed for 431 in the first innings. All four of Ashwin’s previous seven-wicket hauls have resulted in big wins for India, and this may turn out no different, with the visiting side being reduced to 11/1 in a chase of 395.
After taking 55 minutes to end the South African resistance in the morning, the need for quick runs was not lost on the Indians. With a first innings lead of 71 and rain forecast for the final day, the hosts had to undo the damage caused by allowing the South African tail to wag.
When India went to lunch at 35/1, South Africa had no inclination of the carnage to follow. Rohit had a headstart of 14 runs when Pujara joined him in the middle.
The No.3 batsman overcame a sedate start, thanks to Quinton de Kock being in a very generous mood behind the stumps, with as many as three chances going abegging. Pujara revelled in the company of Rohit during the 169-run partnership for the second wicket.
The session between lunch and tea yielded 140 runs for India and the race to the threefigure mark ended when Vernon Philander won an LBW verdict, which Pujara reviewed in vain after being struck on the back leg when on 81 (148b; 13x4, 6x2).
Like in the first innings, there were runs for the taking and Ravindra Jadeja, promoted up the order to No.4, was not the one to waste an opportunity to feast on easy pickings. Rohit’s brilliance seemed to have rubbed off on him too.
Having watched his partner go on the rampage after reaching his hundred, Jadeja took the initiative after de Kock effected a stumping off Keshav Maharaj to get rid of Rohit.