Pressure mounts on South Africa as Rohit Sharma ton double puts India in driver's seat

Visitors lose one wicket late on day four as they chase 395 in Visakhapatnam Test

India's Ravindra Jadeja, centre, picked up the wicket of South Africa opener Dean Elgar. AFP
India's Ravindra Jadeja, centre, picked up the wicket of South Africa opener Dean Elgar. AFP

A second century of the match from new opener Rohit Sharma put India firmly in the driver's seat on day four of the first Test against South Africa in Visakhapatnam.

With the pitch slowing down and the bounce getting lower, batting became a challenge. But not for Rohit who blasted 127 off just 149 balls with 10 fours and seven sixes as the hosts raced to 323-4 declared in 67 overs to give the Proteas a target of 395.

In the nine overs of play that was possible towards the end of day four, left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja trapped Dean Elgar lbw with one that stayed low as the visitors went to stumps at 11-1.

That late wicket put the momentum in India's camp and batsman Cheteshwar Pujara, who hit 81 off 148 balls in the company of Rohit, said his team now call all the shots.

"We picked up a crucial wicket, so as a team we are happy with the way things went and hope to start off well tomorrow," Pujara was quoted as saying by AFP.

"It will not be easy to bat on this pitch on day five, with a little more assistance for the spinners. And with variable bounce, even the fast bowlers will come into play."

After the Proteas were bowled out for 431 in their first innings in the morning, the No1 Test side needed quick runs and Rohit did that perfectly. Having made 176 in the first innings, Rohit became the first batsman to hit two centuries in his first match as Test opener.

Indian cricketers Rohit Sharma (R) and Cheteshwar Pujara (L) look at the score on a big screen during the fourth day's play of the first Test match between India and South Africa at the Dr. Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium in Visakhapatnam on October 5, 2019. ----IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE----- / AFP / NOAH SEELAM / ----IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE-----
Rohit Sharma, right, scored his second century of the Visakhapatnam Test. AFP

No wonder other batsmen around him played with a bit more ease on a tough wicket.

"The way Rohit was playing allowed me to settle down. Only he can play such shots on this track," said Pujara. "Our partnership between lunch and tea was crucial. Our communication was good as we have batted together a lot in under-19 cricket. It was enjoyable to watch his batting from the non-striker's end."

Rohit also hit 13 sixes, which is now the most in a Test, breaking Wasim Akram's record of 12.

Earlier, off-spinner Ravi Ashwin finished with a seven-wicket haul as South Africa were bowled out in the morning session.

Ashwin got overnight batsman Keshav Maharaj for nine and then dismissed Kagiso Rabada to help India gain a lead of 71. The off-spinner ended up with figures of 7-145 from 46.2 overs.

Despite the size of the challenge facing South Africa, seamer Vernon Philander said his team can keep India at bay and earn 13 World Test Championship points from a draw.

"We have had a really good first innings with the bat. The guys are in good spirits. It is going to be a challenge but one we look forward to," said Philander.

Updated: October 5, 2019 08:16 PM

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