Sharma hits his 3rd hundred of the series to give India the advantage on Day 1
Rohit Sharma batted India through a difficult new ball period after Virat Kohli had again won the toss to score his third century of the series and put his side on the way to another substantial first innings total against the Standard Bank Proteas on the opening day of the final Freedom Series Test match at Ranchi on Saturday.
India 224 - 3 (58.0overs) – (Rohit Sharma 117*, Ajinkya Rahane 83)
South Africa - Still to bat
At the Close - India are 224 for 3
Sharma finished the day unbeaten on 117 (164 balls, 14 fours and 4 sixes) for his sixth career century and in the process took his series aggregate past the 400-run mark. His partnership with Ajinkya Rahane for the fourth wicket – so far 185 runs in a little more than 42 overs – was also an Indian fourth wicket record against the Proteas, improving on the 178 that Rahane and Kohli had put together in the previous match at Pune.
It gave India a total of 224/3 in only 58 overs when play was abandoned for the day following first bad light and then rain.
It was a day’s play of two distinct halves with a new-look South African side – there were five changes from the previous match – having an outstanding opening session when Kagiso Rabada set the standard with good support from Lungi Ngidi and Anrich Nortje to put India back on their heels at 39/3 midway through the session.
They maintained the pressure through to the lunch break, taken at 71/3, and it could have been even better had Zubayr Hamza managed to hold on to a reflex catch at short leg from Sharma in new cap George Linde’s opening over.
But it was a different story for the remainder of the day with Sharma and Rahane accelerating to a scoring rate of almost 5 to the over to put on 134 off 29 overs and then a further 19 in the 6 overs that were possible in the evening session.
Sharma had been restricted to what was by his standards a moderate rate of scoring initially to need 85 balls to record his half-century and it was Rahane who first took the game away from the South African attack.
His half-century came almost at the rate of a run a ball as he plundered the leg-side boundary before he finished the day on 83 (135 balls, 11 fours and a six).
Rabada (2/54 in 14) and Nortje (1/50 in 16) were the pick of the attack and the only wicket-takers. Linde had a solid debut (40 runs in 11 overs) but Dane Piedt was again targeted, and the South African spinners only managed a single maiden over between them.
The most significant change to the Proteas line-up was the decision to move Quinton de Kock up the order to open the batting, and Heinrich Klaasen, who joined Linde as a debutant, taking over the wicketkeeping duties.
Two of the changes were enforced by the injuries to Keshav Maharaj and Aiden Markram while the others to drop out were Theunis de Bruyn, Senuran Muthusamy and Vernon Philander.
Klaasen and Linde become caps number 104 and 105 respectively to represent the Proteas in the red-ball format.
India- Mayank Agarwal, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravichandran Ashwin, Shahbaz Nadeem, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami
South Africa- Dean Elgar, Quinton de Kock, Zubayr Hamza, Faf du Plessis, Temba Bavuma, Heinrich Klaasen, George Linde, Dane Piedt, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Lungi Ngidi
Saksham Mishra Comment -
South Africa, after having already lost the series decided to go all out with changes and made as many as five changes to their playing XI. Apart from Aiden Markram missing the game due to an injury, the team brought in Lungi Ngidi in place of Vernon Philander, Dane Peidt in place of Senuran Muthusamy and Zubayr Hamza in place of Theunis de Bruyn.
The team has also decided to promote Quinton de Kock at at the top of the order while giving the keeping responsibilities to Heinrich Klaasen. George Linde has also been included as the second spinner.
So many changes clearly point that the Proteas unit is quite unsettled at the moment and is looking for a way out to perform in unfamiliar conditions. India decided to replace Ishant Sharma with local spinner Shahbaz Nadeem, who was added to the squad at the last minute as a cover to Kuldeep Yadav, who suffered a niggle in the shoulder.
The pitch in Ranchi was batting-friendly, apart from the odd ball staying low, but South African new-ball bowlers made full use of the overcast conditions, reducing India to 39 for 3 at one point. Each of Mayank Agrawal, Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli were dismissed cheaply, with Kagiso Rabada accounting for two of them.
Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane first weathered the storm and then gradually began to capitalise. While Rohit Sharma brought up his 3rd century of the series, Ajinkya Rahane is also approaching one.
They went on to string an unbeaten partnership of 185, the highest fourth wicket partnership for India against South Africa. Bad light stopped play after which rain came in and the match could not be continued further.
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