India ended Day 1 of the Boxing Day Test against South Africa at the SuperSport Park in Centurion on a strong foot. Openers KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal gave the visitors a solid start, sharing a partnership of 117 runs. While Rahul scored a century, Agarwal played the role of a second fiddle to perfection, scoring a 60. India finished Day 1 with 272/3 on board and would be looking to carry the same form and momentum into day two. Here we look at all the talking points from the day’s play.
A solid first-wicket stand
Rahul and Mayank gave India a solid start to the first Test of the South Africa tour. The duo shared a partnership of 117 runs for the first wicket before Agarwal was dismissed for 60 in the 40th over. Rahul, meanwhile, went on to score a fine century, the seventh of his Test career. Six of those have come overseas.
With the stand, Rahul and Mayank became the third Indian opening pair in Test history to stitch a century stand in the rainbow nation. In doing so, they joined the likes of Wasim Jaffer and Dinesh Karthik (153 in the Cape Town Test in 2007) and Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag (137 in the Centurion Test in 2010).
KL Rahul’s seventh Test century
KL Rahul led the charge for India on day 1 with an unbeaten knock of 122 runs. This is his seventh Test century in 69 innings and second in his last seven innings. He is now also the second Indian opening batter to score a Test century in South Africa after Wasim Jaffer, who scored 116 in Cape Town in 2006/07. Interestingly, Rahul now has a century in all six of the countries he has batted in in Tests (India, Australia, England, West Indies, Sri Lanka and South Africa).
Additionally, he also joined Australia’s David Warner and West Indies’ Chris Gayle to become the third visiting opener in Test cricket to score a century at the Centurion.
The right-hander has been in fine form throughout 2021. He was India’s highest run-scorer against England with 315 runs in four Tests, which was followed by a wonderful run in the Indian Premier League 2021, where he scored 626 runs for the Kings XI Punjab. In the subsequent T20 World Cup, Rahul was India’s highest run-scorer with 194 runs. After this, he scored a half-century against New Zealand in the T20I series, before missing the Test series due to an injury.
Virat Kohli unable to convert his start into a big knock
India Test captain Virat Kohli has come into this series after being under the scanner for his average performances over the last two years. To make matters worse, he has recently been involved in a captaincy controversy with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). Kohli was expected to answer critics with the bat in the Centurion Test, but unfortunately, he failed to get going once again. Kohli was unable to convert his start into a big innings after throwing away his wicket to Lungi Ngidi on 35. Although he played a few beautiful cover drives, Kohli’s search for a 71st century continued.
Ajinkya Rahane’s chance to redeem himself
Ajinkya Rahane, who has been under immense scrutiny for his poor performances, remained unbeaten on 40 on day 1. Day 2 will present him with the opportunity to score his first half-century in seven innings. Rahane last scored a Test century in the 2020 Boxing Day Test against Australia in Melbourne, and will be hoping to replicate the same in Centurion.
Ahead of the Test, Rahane’s inclusion in the playing XI was also in doubt. But captain Kohli chose to opt for Rahane in place of an in-form Shreyas Iyer, a decision which would pay rich dividends on day two.
South Africa’s poor bowling
Contrary to what was largely expected, the South African bowlers failed to give a tough fight to the visiting batters. The likes of Kagiso Rabada and Marco Jansen failed to make the most of the bouncy pitch and gave away a few easy deliveries. Lungi Ngidi was the only bowler who posed a challenge for India by picking up three wickets.
Also read: Top 10 Fastest Bowlers in Cricket History