The dominance of a well-set Rohit Sharma can be demoralising for the opposition. Right after his dismissal, nearly the entire South African team patted Rohit on his back for a knock which brought him his maiden Test double century. The visitors appeared as impressed as the rest at the JSCA International Stadium.
Rohit added 95 to his overnight score to make 212 (255b, 28x4, 6x6). The ease at which he collected his runs dented the spirit of the visitors as they helplessly watched India pile up 497 for 9 before declaration on the second day of the third Test.
India had just one significant partnership but a massive one at that. For the fourth-wicket, Rohit forged 267 with Ajinkya Rahane, who struck a well-deserved ton. Rahane’s 115 (192b, 17x4, 1x6) – his 11th Test century - was also his first at home since 2016.
When bad light put curtains on the day’s proceedings, South Africa were left with a familiar situation to deal with. Reeling at 9/2, the Proteas stare at a tough climb. The Indian pacers were quick to seize the momentum. Dean Elgar (0) gloved one to the wicketkeeper while leaving a rising delivery from Mohammed Shami, the second ball of the innings. Quinton de Kock (4) received a snorter from Umesh Yadav and gloved it to Wriddhiman Saha.
Captain Faf du Plessis (1), who was in the middle with Zubayr Hamza (0), will hope to deliver and wish for his inexperienced team-mates to rally around him. For now, ahead by 488 runs, Virat Kohli’s men have laid the perfect foundation for a clean sweep of the three-match series.
India began the morning with a flurry of boundaries. Rahane extended his opening day’s fluid approach with a glorious cover drive off Andrich Nortje in the second over. India’s vice-captain then struck a smooth off-drive off Rabada to inch towards his ton.
Rohit took little time to join the party. The right-hander punished Lungi Ngidi, who either strayed on the leg side or bowled short. Rohit slammed three fours off the right-arm pacer in the 68th over as India accounted for 45 runs in the first ten overs of the day.
Rahane edged one to the wicketkeeper while attempting a late-cut off left-arm spinner George Linde (4/133), but India surged ahead through Rohit. Till he moved into his 190s, the game was played entirely on Rohit’s terms.
Off-spinner Dane Piedt (1/101) was the easiest to score off and Rohit feasted on his loose deliveries. He stepped down the track to cart Piedt over his head for a six and then smashed another one over wide long on. The 32-year-old also drove him through the off-side for a couple of fours.
As he neared his landmark, new ball was taken and Kagiso Rabada, who troubled him on the first day, gave Rohit some jittery moments. Rohit inside-edged, not once but twice, in the last over before lunch bowled by Rabada as the Indian dressing room wore a nervous look. Rohit had to wait for the post-lunch session just to score one run for his double ton. He reached the feat in a manner typical of him in limited overs cricket, pulling a short ball off Ngidi for a six.
Rabada, after coming close to get Rohit’s scalp many times, finally had his man when the Indian pulled one straight to the fine-leg fielder. India’s scoring rate took a beating after Rohit’s exit. Scoring above 4.5 runs per over during his presence, India slipped to less than three an over. The hosts still remained in control courtesy another valuable knock from Ravindra Jadeja (51, 119b, 4x4) before Umesh Yadav’s entertaining cameo of 31 of just 10 balls, which included five sixes, gave them a massive total.