Just when Indian opener Rohit Sharma and vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane were starting to take over the game dominated by the Proteas in the morning session, the rain decided to play the spoilsport and third and final Test against South Africa in Ranchi on Saturday (October 19) was called off.
The Proteas dominance shook the Indian top-order for 39-3, however, opener Rohit Sharma led the fightback by recording his third century of the series and his 2000 career Test runs on day one.
Along with vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane who is batting at 83 off 135 balls, Rohit (117 off 164) gave the hosts an unbeaten partnership of 185 runs in the first innings.
India reached 71 for three at lunch, however, Rohit and Rahane with their timely boundaries made India touch 224/3 in 58 overs before play was called off due to rain.
Rain may affect the second day’s proceedings as well, the local weatherman predicted.
“There is a possibility of thundershowers and lightning at isolated places in Ranchi. Chances are less by Monday onwards,” an official of the Indian Meteorological Department, Ranchi, said.
Day one largely remained overcast with sun playing hide and seek and there was a brief drizzle in the second session.
The weatherman blamed it on the cyclonic circulation positioned over east-central Madhya Pradesh and neighbouring areas.
Sharma smashed fourteen delectable boundaries and four sixes over after successfully reviewing a decision when he was given out on seven. Rahane too hit eleven boundaries and a six at tea.
Rohit Sharma also became the first Indian opener since Sunil Gavaskar to score more than two centuries in a Test series. Gavaskar had achieved the feat way back in 1970. Sharma’s Test century number six came with a massive six off-spinner Dane Piedt.
He paced his innings brilliantly, scoring his first 23 runs off 55 balls before making 78 off the next 75. If that was not enough, Rahane matched him at the other end and brought up his 21st half-century in just 70 balls.
Rohit also broke the record for most sixes in a Test series, once held by West Indies batsman Shimron Hetmyer, who had hit 15 sixes against Bangladesh in November 2018.
The same record, earlier held by any Indian, belonged to Harbhajan Singh who hit 14 sixes against New Zealand in 2010.
The former spinner also recorded two centuries in two matches and was awarded Player of the Series for his batting.
Piedt, who was included in place of Senuran Muthusamy, cut a sorry figure against Sharma’s fury, giving away 43 runs in his six overs.
Debutant left-arm spinner George Linde, who replaced an injured Keshav Maharaj, looked tidy with figures of 8-1-30-0.
Such was the duos dominance after lunch that Rabada who had a fiery opening spell of 7-4-15-2 looked listless in the second spell that read 4-0-30-0.
Rahane matched Sharma shot for shot and at one point even had a better strike rate than his explosive Mumbai partner as he notched up his fastest half-century in India.
Sharma, however, had a testing opening session and survived on seven after reviewing an LBW successfully. He also survived a runout chance when he was out of the crease but Zubayr Hamzas throw from point missed the stumps.
Uneven bounce with a few staying really low greeted the Indian openers in the first morning of the final Test as the duo of Rabada and Lungi Ngidi made full use of the conditions to give the visitors their best start of the series.
Rabada made the most of it dismissing opener Mayank Agarwal (10) and Cheteshwar Pujara for a rare duck inside the first hour of play.
The first breakthrough came in Rabada’s third over when the pacer swung it away with Agarwal edging it to Dean Elgar at third slip.
Rabada went on to dismiss Pujara for a duck in his fifth over following a successful review by the South Africans after the onfield umpire Richard Illingworth turned down an lbw appeal.
But it was Nortje who earned the biggest wicket as he sent back Pune Tests double centurion Kohli after the skipper failed to read one that came back in sharply. Kohli took the review but only to be turned down with an umpires call as the skipper went back to the pavillion frustrated.
Earlier, 30-year-old left-arm spinner Shabaz Nadeem became the 296th player to represent India when he was handed a surprise Test debut less than 24 hours after being included in the squad in place of an injured Kuldeep Yadav.
In his bid to avoid the ignominy of a 3-0 whitewash, Du Plessis made as many as five changes to his team with two of them — Keshav Maharaj and Aiden Markram — being forced ones as they both are injured.
In came Lungi Ngidi, Zubayr Hamza, Heinrich Klaasen, George Linde and Dane Piedt with Vernon Philander, Theunis de Bruyn and Senuran Muthusamy being left out.
Score at stumps on day one:
India 1st innings:
Mayank Agarwal (c) Elgar (b) Rabada – 10
Rohit Sharma (batting) – 117
Cheteshwar Pujara (lbw) (b) Rabada – 0
Virat Kohli (lbw) (b) Nortje – 12
Ajinkya Rahane (batting) – 83
Extras: (B-1, NB-1) 2
Total: (For 3 wickets in 58 overs) 224
Fall of wickets: 1-12, 2-16, 3-39
Kagiso Rabada 14-5-54-2
Lungi Ngidi 11-4-36-0
Anrich Nortje 16-3-50-1
George Linde 11-1-40-0
Dane Piedt 6-0-43-0
(With inputs from agencies)