Centurion, Dec 26: In a gripping first day of the opening Test between India and South Africa at SuperSport Park, KL Rahul’s gritty innings of 70 emerged as the saving grace for the visitors. At stumps on Day 1, India concluded their innings at 208/8, with the South African pace spearhead Kagiso Rabada wreaking havoc with a five-wicket haul.
Opting to bowl first after winning the toss, South African skipper Temba Bavuma’s decision seemed justified as the Indian batting lineup struggled against Rabada’s fiery spells. The absence of Ravindra Jadeja, who was ruled out due to back spasms, prompted the inclusion of R Ashwin in the playing XI. The debutant Prasidh Krishna also marked his entry into Test cricket, adding an interesting dimension to India’s pace attack.
The much-anticipated return of Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, and Jasprit Bumrah to the Test arena materialised in this match, marking their first appearance since the heartbreaking 2023 ODI World Cup final loss to Australia. In the absence of regular captain Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav led the team in the T20Is, while KL Rahul took charge in the ODIs. However, with the commencement of the Test series, Rohit Sharma reassumed his leadership role for the two matches crucial to the World Test Championship cycle.
India faced a setback with the exclusion of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane from the squad. The experienced duo found themselves on the sidelines, raising eyebrows and adding an element of surprise to India’s team composition. Additionally, the absence of the seasoned pacer Mohammed Shami, still recuperating from an injury, further tested India’s bowling resources.
KL Rahul’s innings emerged as a silver lining for India on a challenging day. His composed and resilient knock steered the visitors to a respectable total, providing a platform for the bowlers to make an impact when they take the field on Day 2. As the focus now shifts to the bowling department, India will be looking to bounce back and make inroads into the South African batting lineup to level the playing field in this exciting Test encounter.