RANCHI: Rohit Sharma smashed a maiden Test double century as the opener helped India reach 497 for nine before declaring on day two of the third and final Test against South Africa on Sunday.
The tourists were in trouble at nine for two, with Indian fast bowlers Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav sending the opposition openers back to the pavilion before bad light stopped play at the JSCA International Complex, with India chasing a series whitewash to consolidate their position at top of the World Test Championship.
Sharma made 212 and was involved in a 267-run fourth wicket partnership with centurion Ajinkya Rahane to pulverise South Africa’s bowling.
Zubayr Hamza, on nought, and skipper Faf du Plessis, on one, were at the crease when poor light held up play for the second successive day.
Spearhead Shami struck with the second ball of the innings to get the left-handed Dean Elgar caught behind for nought. Yadav joined forces to send Quinton de Kock packing for four after the batsman tried to fend off a bouncer that caught his glove and was safely taken by wicket-keeper Wriddhiman Saha.
The day, however, belonged to Sharma who reached 200 with a six off paceman Lungi Ngidi in the third over after lunch, to a standing ovation from the raucous home crowd.
The in-form opener hit another six off Ngidi before falling to Rabada and returned to the pavilion with handshakes from the South African side.
Sharma — who hit twin centuries in his debut as Test opener at the start of the series — pulled India out of early trouble with his marathon stand with Rahane, who made 115.
The senior batsman, playing his 30th Test, surpassed his previous best of 177 on his debut against the West Indies at Kolkata in 2013.
Sharma, who has three double centuries in his already illustrious one-day career, smashed the ball all around the park as he hit 28 fours and six sixes in his 255-ball stay.
Rahane, who started the second day on 83, became Linde’s first Test victim and the only Indian wicket to fall in the morning session.
Sharma and Rahane put on a record fourth-wicket stand of 267. Rahane scored his 11th Test hundred and a first on home soil since 2016.
Linde got good turn with his left-arm spin in an extended afternoon session as he claimed Ravindra Jadeja for 51.
Linde said his team will fightback despite their bad start.
“Obviously was a bad start. It’s not the way we wanted it to go but tomorrow is another day,” he said with a smile.
“We were positive. Guys were smiling in the dressing room, so we are ready for tomorrow. We are not going to sit back and relax, we will try to take the challenge on.”
Yadav, coming in at number nine, played a useful cameo of 31, hitting five sixes during his 10-ball blitz.
Shami, on 10, and debutant Shahbaz Nadeem, on one, were batting when skipper Virat Kohli called them back at the stroke of tea.
Earlier on day one, Rabada struck twice to reduce India to 39-3 after the hosts elected to bat first on Saturday, which also saw a large part of the final session lost to bad weather.
Sharma, though, continued his dominance of the visitors’ attack.
“I wanted to use this opportunity to full (to score big runs). Communication with team management about my opener’s role has helped. I have played only 30 tests. In terms of what was thrown at me in this test, it was the most challenging one,” Sharma said after the day’s play.
He is the first Indian batsman to accumulate 500-plus runs in a Test series against South Africa. The previous best was 388 by Mohammad Azharuddin in 1996-97.
“A lot has been said about my test career. I am not reading too much into my success right now. Conditions overseas will be different and I am awaiting that challenge,” Sharma added.
Linde returned figures of 4-133 with his left-arm spin, providing some support to paceman Kagiso Rabada who had put the hosts in early trouble at 39-3 on day one.
“I didn’t expect to play Test cricket. So when I got the call-up I was quite nervous but luckily I had a few days to just settle,” the Cape Town-born Linde told reporters. “Today few lessons learnt, especially at the end. But I will take four wickets on a debut.”
The debutant conceded it wasn’t easy bowling to batsmen who are familiar with the conditions.
“Obviously consistency is very important [in India],” said Linde. “We got it wrong on the leg side yesterday, today I was lot better, bit more on the off side.”
Linde nearly got Sharma on 28 but Zubayr Hamza dropped a tough chance at forward short-leg and the bowler was not complaining.
“Those catches, they stick or they don’t. So unfortunately it wasn’t our way, it was Rohit’s,” he said. “He played well, so well done to him.”
India took an insurmountable 2-0 lead in the three-match series after winning the first two Tests in Visakhapatnam and Pune.
INDIA (1st Innings, overnight 224-3):
M.A. Agarwal c Elgar b Rabada 10
R.G. Sharma c Ngidi b Rabada 212
C.A. Pujara lbw b Rabada 0
V. Kohli lbw b Nortje 12
A.M. Rahane c Klaasen b Linde 115
R.A. Jadeja c Klaasen b Linde 51
W.P. Saha b Linde 24
R. Ashwin st Klaasen b Piedt 14
U.T. Yadav c Klaasen b Linde 31
Shahbaz Nadeem not out 1
Mohammed Shami not out 10
EXTRAS (B-10, LB-6, NB-1) 17
TOTAL (for nine wkts decl, 116.3 overs) 497
FALL OF WKTS: 1-12, 2-16, 3-39, 4-306, 5-370, 6-417, 7-450, 8-464, 9-482.
BOWLING: Rabada 23-7-85-3 (1nb); Lungi 20-5-83-0; Nortje 24.3-5-79-1; Linde 31-2-133-4; Piedt 18-3-101-1.
SOUTH AFRICA (1st Innings):
D. Elgar c Saha b Shami 0
Q. de Kock c Saha b Yadav 4
Z. Hamza not out 0
F. du Plessis not out 1
EXTRAS (B-4) 4
TOTAL (for two wkts, 5 overs) 9
FALL OF WKTS: 1-4, 2-8.
TO BAT: T. Bavuma, H. Klaasen, G.F. Linde, D.L. Piedt, K. Rabada, A. Nortje, L. Ngidi.
BOWLING (to-date): Mohammed Shami 1-1-0-1; Yadav 1-0-4-1; Shahbaz Nadeem 2-2-0-0; Jadeja 1-0-1-0
Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2019