As if it was written in the stars, Virat Kohli, captaining his side for the 50th time in Tests, coming into the second Test against South Africa 1-0 up and looking to seal the series, of course wins the toss and decides to bat first.
It was a morning that would have been enjoyable for South Africa, having selected the extra paceman, in Anrich Nortje, giving the young man his debut Test cap. He was in the side in place of Dane Piedt, who honestly was a liability with the ball in the first Test.
There was some moisture in the pitch in the first session and South Africa would have been hopeful that they would capture a few early wickets. That was not to be as they picked up the solitary wicket in the first session, that of Rohit Sharma, who went to a beauty of a delivery from Kagiso Rabada, for 14.
As is often the case with the first morning of a Test match, survival is paramount, the number of plays and misses doesn’t matter as long as you are still there after the first hour. Conditions will get better and batting will become easier the longer you’re in the middle.
Mayank Agarwal was particularly impressive at this, showing the temperament required in Test match Cricket. He did the right thing, he survived. Post lunch, he capitalized on the lack of moisture in the pitch as he brought up his second Test century in back-to-back Tests.
Bowling partnerships are critically important in Test Cricket, especially in India, but there was not enough pressure being built from both ends throughout the day from South Africa. A number of good overs strung together is then squandered by the easy boundary ball on offer. India were never under pressure to rotate the strike and score freely, as was showcased by their ability to score 105 runs in the final session of the day.
The little advantage South Africa did have bowling first, with their three seamers was once again, wasted.
Anrich Nortje was seemingly tasked with being the “enforcer”, told to bang it in short and hope for an edge. This strategy was only visible in the 2nd session though. If this was the game plan for him, why wasn’t he used in this role in the first session when the batsmen weren’t settled and it could have been a more effective strategy? When he did employ this approach, it all became a bit too predictable and one dimensional.
This was the theme of the day, tactics from captain Faf du Plessis were odd to say the least. They lacked intensity and aggression, being very defensive in trying to restrict runs, as opposed to trying to take wickets. Holding Rabada back at the start of a new session, with a new batsman at the crease and having taken the only wickets to fall in the day, made no sense. He proved just why that was a wrong decision with his third wicket of the innings in his first over back, after tea.
It was yet another disappointing and long day in the field for South Africa, who need to come back strong on Day 2. India will resume on 273-3, with captain Kohli, who was given a life on 3, unbeaten on 63, his 23rd Test half-century.
Play will resume on Friday morning at 6 am SA time.