India vs South Africa, 2nd Test, Day 1: Agarwal ton hurts erratic Proteas
Discipline was the buzzword in the South African campaign heading into the Pune Test. However, barring pace spearhead Kagiso Rabada who maintained excellent control throughout, a lack of consistency from the Proteas bowling attack gave India the upper hand on the opening day of the second Test at the MCA Stadium.
Sharing a firm 138-run partnership for the second wicket with Cheteshwar Pujara, Mayank Agarwal scored a flamboyant century and made the visitors toil relentlessly in pursuit of wickets. Ajinkya Rahane and Virat Kohli remained unbeaten at the crease when bad light forced early stumps, with India in a commanding position at 273/3.
Faf du Plessis couldn't believe his luck after he called wrong at the toss once again, as the hosts unsurprisingly opted to bat first. Contrary to expectations, the surface looked conducive to pace and bounce, forcing both teams to make room for an extra seamer in the playing XI.
With the South African quicks extracting prodigious movement off the deck, the onus was on the Indian opening pair to harmlessly negotiate the first hour of the morning session.
Having toiled rather fruitlessly in Vizag, Rabada was on the money with his lines right from the outset. Steaming in with intensity, the hostile quick frequently whizzed past the outside edge of Rohit Sharma before eventually getting him to nick behind for 14.
Agarwal, having been dealt a nasty blow on the helmet by a snaring bouncer from Anrich Nortje, produced an exhibition of driving masterclass to kick-start his onslaught. Pujara too discovered his groove after an archetypal scratchy beginning, with nonchalant flicks off left-arm tweaker Keshav Maharaj.
South Africa's tactical ploy to resort to bouncers proved futile as Agarwal unleashed some imperious pulls.
Eyeing a ton, Pujara feathered an innocuous good-length delivery to Du Plessis at slip, off Rabada. Unfazed by the dismissal, Agarwal kept scoring a frenetic pace.
The right-hander waltzed down the track to hammer Maharaj for consecutive sixes before guiding Vernon Philander through gully to bring up the magical three figures. But Agarwal had to contend with a baby hundred as he perished shortly after reaching the landmark, edging Rabada to a wide first slip.
Circumspect in their approach, Kohli and Rahane then united forces to reconstruct the innings, as the guest nation labored in quest of another breakthrough.
Quick to pounce on marginal errors in length, the Indian skipper notched up his half-century with a booming cover drive. At the other end Rahane effected a blockathon, lumbering to 18 off 70 balls in a bid to prevent any further damage under worsening lights.
Brief scores: India 273/3 (Mayank Agarwal 108, Virat Kohli 63*; Kagiso Rabada 3-48) vs South Africa