Rohit's fascinating duel with Rabada

Rohit's fascinating duel with Rabada

South Africa pacer Kagiso Rabada produced a wonderful performance on Saturday, bagging two wickets in the process. PTI

Kagiso Rabada was like a storm that had been a long time coming. South Africa’s strike bowler had just four wickets from two games, a statistics he was desperate to improve. When he snared the wickets of Mayank Agarwal and Cheteshwar Pujara on the opening day of the third Test here, many expected the exciting rivalry of Rabada and Virat Kohli to unfold. But it wasn’t to be as the Indian captain was dismissed by a beauty from Andrich Nortje.

The fired-up Rabada (2/54), producing great movement, now had Rohit Sharma to go hard at and the duo was involved in a mouth-watering battle. Rohit, who was content in blocking many deliveries from the pacer, was steadily settling down. Rabada stayed in the fight by bowling some unplayable deliveries. Fortune favoured Rohit as he remained unscathed in the first session.

The duo kick-started the second session with an absorbing contest. In Rabada’s opening spell after lunch, Rohit missed more than he played. The right-hander was lucky to get a four off an edge. If anyone should have got the wicket of Rohit on Saturday, it was Rabada. The right-arm quick was unlucky but full marks to Rohit for his grit.

“This is what Test cricket is all about. Rabada is one of the best bowlers in the world at the moment. Today, he showed why he is rated so high. There was movement for him. Good batters should survive those spells and stay in the middle. Rohit did that well. Early on, they bowled in better areas but our recovery was phenomenal,” observed Vikram Rathore, India’s batting coach, at a press conference.

Ahead of the series, it was a question of will for Rohit. Given the new role of opening in the longer format, the experienced campaigner had one last chance to resurrect his Test career. By plundering runs in the opening Test, Rohit showcased his gifted skills but his unbeaten 117-run knock here revealed his hunger to succeed in red-ball cricket.

“In Tests, the only adjustment he had to make was his game plan. You need to play those tough spells that you will get and he is doing that very well in this series. Once he is set, he is a phenomenal player and he can really punish you. He just had to make that mental adjustment,” Rathore explained.    

Rathore felt Rohit has done enough to validate the management’s move to play him as opener. “The amount of runs he has scored, he has settled the issue for the time being. And the kind of experience he has, if he starts coming good for you at the top of the order, that changes everything for the team, even when we are touring,” he said.