South Africa vs India, 1st Test: Rahul puts India on top on Day 1

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Sun, 26/12/2021
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India, set to conquer their 'Final Frontier' – a maiden Test series win on South African soil – finished Day 1 of the first Test match, at Centurion, on 272/3. At the crease are K.L. Rahul (122*), who returned from an injury to score his first hundred on South African soil, and Ajinkya Rahane (40*), battling to keep his place in the side. Despite playing only five batters here, India have set a platform for a score in excess of 400.

Virat Kohli won the toss and batted on a true-paced pitch that he expected to become faster on Days 2 and 3. For India retained Ajinkya Rahane and included five bowlers, while South Africa gave out a Test cap to Marco Jansen instead of recalling Duanne Olivier. Both teams went in with one specialist spinner each.

Rahul and Mayank Agarwal (60) got off to a great start, taking India to 83/0 runs in 28 overs by lunch. Rahul began cautiously, and was hit on the shoulder by Kagiso Rabada in the fifth over. Dean Elgar's optimistic referral resulted in South Africa losing a review.

At the other end, Agarwal took charge early on, striking three fours in Jansen’s first over in Test cricket. In all, five of his seven fours in the first session came off Jansen. Jansen almost had his revenge when he found Agawal's edge, but Quinton de Kock dropped the catch. Five balls after lunch, hit hit Jansen for another four to reach his fifty.

India reached 100 by the 35th over, and the South African bowlers seemed resigned to a long day ahead of them. Then Lungi Ngidi (3-45) struck. He first pinned Agarwal in front of the stumps, and this time Elgar's review worked, albeit in a very close call. Cheteshwar Pujara went next ball, caught at short leg.

Rahul soon completed his fifty, but for the next hour he and Virat Kohli looked to consolidate. They took India to 157/2 by tea. Then, at 199, Ngidi pitched one up well outside off stump. Kohli (35), sucked into a drive well away from his body, could only manage to edge to slip.

Rahane looked confident in his 81-ball stay, allowing Rahul to take his time and bring up his seventh Test hundred. Rahul became the second Indian opener (after Wasim Jaffer) to score a Test hundred in South Africa. In all, he hit 17 fours and a six, and will have his eyes on Sachin Tendulkar's 169 – the highest individual score by an Indian on South African soil in Test cricket.

Brief scores: India 272/3 (K.L. Rahul 122*; Lungi Ngidi 3-45) vs South Africa.