KL Rahul’s classical century put India into a commanding
position on day one of the opening Test against South Africa at Centurion. Powered
by an excellent partnership from the openers, the tourists finished the day at
272 for three on a surprisingly docile wicket at SuperSport Park, which offered
very little to the South African seamers. Lungi Ngidi was the pick of the
bowlers for the Proteas – picking up all three wickets that fell on the day –
but the South African attack struggled to penetrate the Indian batting lineup
in the absence of Anrich Nortje and Duane Olivier.
Having won the toss, Virat Kohli opted to bat first,
trusting his opening batters to get through the tricky first hour when batting
was at its toughest. The Karnataka pair of KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal did just
that, with both openers showing great restraint and discipline outside the
off-stump against the South African new ball pair of Kagiso Rabada and Lungi
While Rabada was able to ask some questions in his opening
spell, the pressure was instantly relieved when the debutant Marco Jansen
entered the attack as the left-armer was taken for three boundaries in his
opening over by Mayank Agarwal. Battling the nerves in his first outing in Test
cricket, Jansen struggled to find a consistent line and length and was often
guilty of spraying the ball onto the pads, much to the delight of the wristy
Apart from one dropped diving catch from Quinton de Kock,
the pair were rarely troubled throughout the first session and put on India’s
first century opening stand in South Africa since 2010.
South Africa were much-improved after the break and were
duly rewarded when Lungi Ngidi picked up two wickets in two deliveries. The
right-arm quick first pinned Mayank Agarwal on his pads with a nip-backer. The
opener was given not out on the field, but upon review, the hawk-eye showed
that the ball was clipping leg-stump enough to overturn the decision.
Cheteshwar Pujara, meanwhile, was caught by short-leg after
inside edging on to his pads for only his second golden duck of his career.
South Africa threatened to create more breakthroughs during a short-ball
barrage from Kagiso Rabada, but KL Rahul and Virat Kohli weathered the storm.
The pair shared an 82-run partnership before Kohli chased a wayward delivery
from Ngidi that caught the edge on its way to first slip.
KL Rahul picked up the tempo in the final session and
attacked with a surgeon’s precision, cover driving Rabada with authority before
entering the 90’s with a four and six off Keshav Maharaj. The opener eventually
reached his seventh Test century with a boundary off the left-arm spinner and
shared another comfortable 73-run stand with Ajinkya Rahane as India survived
the second new ball without losing another wicket.