Proteas left with mountain to climb against India
Double hundred for an opening batsman: check. Big hundred for a returning player in a new position: check. Three hundred run-plus opening partnership: check. Enormous first innings total: check. Three opposition wickets before stumps: check.
That all three of those South African wickets fell to spin, thus opening up some mental scars inflicted on previous tours of the sub-continent, will also be pleasing for the hosts.
The only concern for Virat Kohli is that rain has been forecast for the south eastern part of India for much of the next few days. Depending on which forecaster gets it right, anywhere between four sessions and two whole days may still be possible in this match.
Given the way Ravichandaran Ashwin and his partner in spin bowling crime Ravi Jadeja were getting it to bite and turn yesterday evening, under lights, Kohli might be confident that five sessions should be enough to go one up in the series.
Batting looked easy again in the first session yesterday as Mayank Agarwal and Rohit Sharma took their opening partnership passed three hundred.
Keshav Maharaj said the slow pace of the pitch was a hindrance for him and the other South African spinners, as was the fact that it hadn’t broken up as much as they’d hoped when play started. It would later however.
Long before then Sharma completed an innings of 176, making Kohli and India’s head coach Ravi Shastri look very clever indeed for shifting him up the order.
As did Agarwal, who is playing in just his fifth Test. India, have mixed and matched openers over the last few years depending on conditions and attitude, but in the 28-year-old Agarwal, they appear to have found a composed player, who - on this type of surface anyway - seems assured of his game.
There was nothing flashy about his innings, and besides prodigious powers of concentration , nothing really stood out about his batting. But boy was he thorough, making the bowlers pay for any tiny misjudgement, while occasionally showing aggression against the tiring spinners.
Agarwal became the fourth Indian player to convert his maiden Test hundred into a double century, while his partnership of 317 with Sharma was the highest for any wicket for India in a Test match against South Africa.
Worryingly for the tourists, signs of deterioration in the surface merged in the extended second session with balls starting to jump and spin from the rough.
That wasn’t the reason for Kohli’s dismissal - giving Senuran Muthusamy his maiden Test wicket. The Indian captain was just too casual about his shot selection and execution.
Ashwin and Jadeja, bowling with more pace than the South African spinners, then knocked over Aiden Markram, Theunis de Bruyn and nightwatchman Dane Piedt in the 20 overs before the close leaving the Proteas with a mountain to climb.@shockerhess