Discipline was the key as opening batsman KL Rahul led a strong Indian batting performance on the first day of the first Test against South Africa at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Sunday.
Rahul made 122 not out as India reached 272 for three at the close after Indian captain Virat Kohli won the toss and decided to bat on a green-tinged pitch.
“When you come abroad to a place like South Africa it’s very important to be very disciplined with your game plans,” said Mayank Agarwal, who made 60 in an opening partnership of 117 with Rahul.
“KL played very well today and he was part of some important partnerships,” said Agarwal. “He understands where his off stump is and he is very disciplined.”
Agarwal’s words were echoed by South African fast bowler Lungi Ngidi, who took all three wickets for the hosts to finish the day with three for 45.
“They showed good discipline,” said Ngidi. “They batted well. Rahul left the ball well up front and put away the bad balls.”
Agarwal said India had benefitted from what he described as “great preparation” in middle practice at Centurion on pitches near the match strip.
“South Africa have a good bowling attack and they bowled good areas but credit to us,” said Agarwal. “We’re very well placed.”
Ngidi said the pitch had not offered much help to the fast bowlers despite a good covering of grass on the surface. “The wicket did less than we thought it would,” he said.
Ngidi ended the opening stand when South Africa successfully sought a review after an appeal for leg before wicket against Agarwal was turned down by umpire Marais Erasmus.
The consensus of commentators was that the ball was probably going to miss down the leg side or go over the stumps but the ball tracking software showed it was hitting near the top of leg stump.
“I thought it was a good shout,” said Ngidi. “That ball kept a bit low compared to other deliveries.”
He said wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock had persuaded captain Dean Elgar to call for the review.
Agarwal said he could not comment on the decision.
– Temporary setback –
Ngidi followed up by dismissing Cheteshwar Pujara first ball, caught at short leg.
It was only a temporary setback for the tourists, however as Rahul shared a third-wicket partnership of 82 with Kohli (35) before he and Ajinkya Rahane added an unbeaten 73 for the fourth wicket.
Rahul provided a masterpiece of concentration and shot selection, marred only by a difficult chance to long leg off Wiaan Mulder when he was on 60.
He faced 248 balls and hit 17 fours and a six in making his seventh Test century.
Rahane, whose place in the team had been questioned after a run of poor form, struck the ball crisply in making an unbeaten 40 off 81 balls with eight fours.
Kohli said at the toss that India’s win against South Africa in the third Test in Johannesburg on their previous tour in 2017/18 had given them the confidence of knowing they could win away from home.
Although they lost that series 2-1, India went on to achieve victories in Australia and England, leaving South Africa as the only major cricket-playing nation where they have not yet triumphed.
Already without strike bowler Anrich Nortje, out for the series with a hip injury, South Africa surprisingly gave a first cap to tall left-arm fast bowler Marco Jansen ahead of Duanne Olivier, the leading wicket-taker in domestic first-class cricket this season.
Jansen, 21, created the only chance of the morning, having Agarwal dropped by wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock with his score on 36 and the total 52.
He produced some threatening deliveries but also sent down some loose balls which were punished.
The South Africa team wore black armbands in honour of anti-apartheid icon Desmond Tutu, described as the country’s moral compass, who died on Sunday aged 90.
Both teams also held a minute’s silence. @AFP.
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