Rohit Sharma celebrates return to Tests with emphatic ton against South Africa
- Faf du Plessis was wary of the arduous task and the need for resources in conditions favouring batsmen in the first innings on Indian tracks.
- Du Plessis' worst fears came true as the visiting side toiled after Virat Kohli decided to bat first after calling right.
- Rohit forged a brilliant partnership with Agarwal and pummelled South Africa into submission.
VISAKHAPATNAM: It took a long time coming, but Rohit Sharma made it count.
In a strong statement of intent, the 32-year-old Mumbaikar came into his own in his new role as an opener. His dominating, unbeaten 115 (174b, 4x12, 5x6) that took India to 202 without loss against South Africa on the opening day of the first Test here on Wednesday.
South African skipper Faf du Plessis was wary of the arduous task and the need for resources in conditions favouring batsmen in the first innings on Indian tracks. His worst fears came true as the visiting side toiled after Virat Kohli decided to bat first after calling right.
There was no forgiveness from Rohit. Under the microscope ever since the management saw it fit to get him into the team as opener, Rohit forged a brilliant partnership with Mayank Agarwal and pummelled South Africa into submission before thunder forced the teams take early tea and rain put the visitors out of their misery for the day.
Agarwal, unbeaten on 84 (183b, 4x11, 6x2), was the initial aggressor after South Africa decided to play three spinners and two seamers in Kagiso Rabada and Vernon Philander. Their only chance was to exploit the 'juice' in the pitch, but in failing to do so, they gave a free hand to the Indian opening duo as they added an unbroken 202 for the first wicket, the first double-hundred stand by Indian openers since Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan put on 283 against Bangladesh in Fatullah in June 2015.
The spin trio of Keshav Maharaj, Dane Piedt, who was hammered for 23 runs in three overs of his second spell, and debutant Senuran Muthusamy looked clueless against the marauding Indian duo with Agarwal and Rohit matching each other stroke for stroke, touch, finesse and audacity in equal measure.
Rohit last played a Test against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in December with returns of an unbeaten 63 and 5. He missed the Sydney Test for personal reasons but led Mumbai Indians to their fourth IPL title and was in rollicking form at the World Cup with a record five centuries and 648 runs.
The tentative starter that he is, Rohit got the percentages right in his 10th Test match at home - he has 884 runs at an average of 98.2 in India -- and was willing to bide his time till the runs started flowing after lunch was taken at 91 without loss. Rohit was already past his half-century by then and carved Piedt twice over mid-wicket off successive deliveries to cruise to 93.
The century didn't take long after that - in fact Rohit has scored a century on debut against Windies, a ton on return from injury against Sri Lanka -- and the one here, he celebrated with an audacious sweep shot off Muthusamy that sailed over mid-wicket.
The second session saw India add 111 runs to their score with the focused opening duo keen to pile on the agony for the Proteas. It didn't help the South African cause that their bowlers were off-colour, offering width on both sides of the pitch which was at its best for batting on the first day.
The rain stopped after play was called off at 3.30 pm but India would want to bat big before turning the screws on the South Africans, who clearly lacked in their reading of sub-continental conditions.