SOUTH AFRICA TOUR OF INDIA 2019
Mayank Agarwal made unbeaten 34 after India lost Rohit Sharma early. © BCCI
Faf du Plessis offered a wry smile and joked about hand tricks as South Africa lost a ninth successive toss in Asia. But having to bowl first on the first morning in Pune was not half as bad as it had been in Visakhapatnam. The pace and bounce on this “much harder” wicket acted as a springboard of sorts at the top of Kagiso Rabada and Vernon Philander’s runups. The two bowlers beat the bat multiple times in the first hour, but had only one wicket to show for their efforts as Mayank Agarwal and Cheteshwar Pujara offset the jitters with a soild half-century partnership.
India’s newest opening partnership of Rohit and Mayank faced its toughest test in the morning session. There was swing and seam movement on offer and both teams recognised this by bringing in an extra fast bowler each (Anrich Nortje for Dane Piedt & Umesh Yadav for Hanuma Vihari). This was as South African as it could get for the visitors in India. Rabada and Philander drew several plays and misses and edges that squirted through third slip and gully.
Rabada was sharper than he had been in Vizag and when he brought his line straighter, he forced Rohit to play at the ball and had his man caught by the keeper. Unfortunately, this course correction came a little later – last ball of the 10th over – than South Africa would have wanted on this pitch. For until then, Rohit and Mayank held fort without pushing away from the body.
Nortje, the debutant, made his mark with a pacy first over. He would even hit Mayank on the helmet with a quick bumper. But the rest of his five-over spell was an eye-opener of the quick shifts of momentum in Test cricket. His attempts at bowling full were repeatedly driven by Mayank, who at one point, had hit four boundaries off seven Nortje deliveries.
Pujara took 13 balls to get off the mark and even survived a drop – a tough chance for Bavum at forward short leg – but with South Africa continuing to bowl straight at him, there were deliveries on the pads to put away. Interestingly, Rabada bowled 10 overs in the first session and Maharaj only three, by when India had claimed early honours in this Test.
Brief scores: India 77/1 (Mayank Agarwal 34*; Kagiso Rabada 1-26) vs South Africa.