1st Test: Opener Rohit’s fifty leads India’s charge against South Africa
Rohit Sharma and Mayank Agarwal run between the wickets. (PTI Image)

Rohit Sharma struck a fluent half-century in his first innings as a Test opener, taking India to 91 for no loss at lunch on day one of the series opener against South Africa on Wednesday. After safely negotiating the South African pacers early on in the session, Rohit (52 not out off 84 balls) and Agarwal (39 not out off 96 balls) looked comfortable at the crease, playing out 30 overs.

India, who had named their playing on the eve of the first Test, opted to bat on a dry surface with skipper Virat Kohli calling his decision a “no brainer.” Expecting the pitch to turn, South Africa picked three spinners in Keshav Maharaj, Dane Piedt and debutant Senuran Muthusamy who is more of a batting allrounder. All eyes were expectedly on Rohit whose stop-start Test career has taken a new direction with the management accommodating him at the top of the order.

He left the first ball he faced before driving Kagiso Rabada past backward point with minimal feet movement for a four. His second scoring shot was also a boundary as he punched Vernon Philander towards backward point. The pitch offered very little to the pacers and spinners in the first two hours of play.

What worked for Rohit was standing outside the crease when Philander was bowling to negate any little swing that was available. Rabada has the express pace but he did not the test Indian openers as much as Philander.

Rohit and Philander’s battle in the first hour was absorbing. Philander, who got the better of Rohit in the warm-up game, challenged Rohit by moving the ball both ways in his opening spell of four overs. After a few play and misses, Rohit chose to walk down the pitch before South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis asked wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock to stand up to the stumps.

India reached 37 for 0 in 15 overs with Rohit and Agarwal looking solid in the middle. After getting the measure of the surface, Rohit went for his strokes like he does in white-ball cricket. His first big hit was a typical one as he gently stepped out of the crease to smash Maharaj over long-on. A little later, he played a similar short off Piedt, only this time the ball flew well above the long-on fielder.

While all the attention was on Rohit, Agarwal was fluent and solid at the other end, collecting six boundaries and a maximum before the break. Rohit completed his 11th Test half-century towards the end of the session but in a not so convincing fashion. He mistimed a sweep but fortunately it was not in the reach of the fielder and went for four.

Brief Scores: India 91/0 (Rohit Sharma 52*, Mayank Agarwal 39*) vs South Africa