Rohit's double, Rahane's ton muzzle SA before pacers strike
- Rohit smashed his way to 212 in the company of Rahane (115), as India declared their first innings at 497/9.
- Before bad light stopped play on the second day, South Africa were reduced to nine for two in five overs.
- Shami and Umesh removed Elgar (0) and De Kock (4) respectively in their single over bursts, creating all sorts of discomfort.
RANCHI: Reaching milestones with a six was Virender Sehwag's forte, and on his birthday, Rohit Sharma emulated him, hitting Lungi Ngidi over the mid-wicket fence to bring up his maiden double hundred in Test cricket.
That six was preceded by a few nervous moments - the only time any Indian looked nervous at the JSCA International Cricket Stadium on Sunday - as Rohit Sharma started the post-lunch session on 199. Rohit is now the fourth batsman in the world with double hundreds in both Tests and ODIs - another record he shares with Sehwag (and Sachin Tendulkar, Chris Gayle).
Sunday's lunch must have been the most anxious that Rohit has ever had. When your Test career has not been smooth and you have just started to fulfil your potential coming at the top of the order, the first double century means a lot more. So the one run left to complete it can make the most delectable food appear unpalatable. The man himself, however, said he was not thinking about it at all.
But the tension showed. Before lunch, he had almost chopped one on to the stumps off Kagiso Rabada in search of the 200th run. He tried but could not get the single off Ngidi in the first over after lunch. Then he did the best thing to get out of that situation - hit the ball out of the park. When the next ball disappeared in the same direction but landed farther, a triple century against South Africa, again like Sehwag, did not feel like a distant dream. For the South African bowlers, except Rabada, and George Linde to some extent, did not look too threatening. And Rabada it was who finally sent back Rohit, with another bouncer. Rohit took him on but could not clear Ngidi at deep fine leg.
Sunday was not all about Rohit though. It was also about Ajinkya Rahane, who is often thought to be a lesser force in home conditions than abroad. True that his career has blown hot and cold in the last two years, after leading India in Virat Kohli's absence in Dharamsala. But this innings has to count among his best.
He middled the ball from the very first delivery he faced on Saturday, while the rest of the batsmen were struggling to cope with the movement off the seam. When he came out to bat with Rohit on Sunday, it did not seem to be a new day when one has to start afresh. His first boundary of the morning was a picture perfect cover drive down on one knee, reminiscent of Sachin Tendulkar in his prime. And though he had allowed Rohit Sharma to dominate the spinners on Saturday, Sunday was a different story. He danced down the track to hit Dane Piedt over his head for a boundary and over the covers.
The only mistake Rahane made over two days was to give Piedt the charge once too often and miss the floater completely. But Heinriech Klaasen, who had four victims in this innings, could not gather it to stump him. But that was only after Rahane had completed his first century at home since 2016.
By the time he departed, the Proteas were so deflated that Ravindra Jadeja scored a half-century without much difficulty, and Umesh Yadav hit five sixes off just 10 balls off Linde, who bowled tight otherwise and got rewarded with some late wickets.