Visakhapatnam, Oct 5 (IANS) Rohit Sharma underlined his credentials as a Test opener with a second consecutive hundred as India set South Africa a target of 395 at stumps on Day 4 of the first Test at the ACA-VDCA Stadium here on Saturday.
At close of play, the Proteas were 11/1 in their second innings with last innings’s centurion Dean Elgar trapped in front by Ravindra Jadeja for just two and Aiden Markram (3 batting) at the crease with Theunis de Bruyn (5 batting).
Rohit built on his 176 in the first essay in spectacular fashion as he struck 127 from 149 balls, his innings studded with 10 fours and a whopping seven sixes to add to his six in the first dig, as he became the batsman to hit the most number of maximums in the longest format of the game.
Cheteshwar Pujara gave him good company with an aggressive 81 off 148 deliveries (13×4, 2×6) before Vernon Philander trapped him.
The pair added 169 for the first wicket as India declared on 323/4 with skipper Virat Kohli (31 not out) and his deputy Ajinkya Rahane (27 not out) batting.
Resuming the day at 385/8, South Africa were bowled out for 431 with ace off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin picking up a seven-wicket haul.
It was a Rohit and Pujara show from there on as the pair paced their innings well keeping India’s declaration in mind.
Mayank Agarwal, who scored his maiden double ton in the first innings, was dismissed for seven caught at first slip by South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis off left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj.
Pujara brought up his first fifty after five innings in 106 deliveries with a delectable cover drive off Kagiso Rabada.
Rohit had luck going his way as he was caught by Senuran Muthusamy on 50 at long on but the debutant stepped on the boundary padding as he tried to lob it back in for himself to take on the second attempt, awarding a six instead.
Pujara upped the ante at the other end by slapping Rabada past backward point for a four and then tonking Dane Piedt for a maximum before he was gone just after tea.
Pujara was fortunate throughout his stay at the crease as South Africa ‘keeper Quinton de Kock missed a stumping chance and a few edges went wide of him much to India’s relief.
Jadeja was promoted up the order at No.4 ahead of Kohli to keep the scoreboard moving but it was Rohit who changed gears after getting to his fifth hundred in white flannels.
Rohit got to his milestone in 133 balls and cut loose after that as he launched into offie Dane Peidt and took him for three back-to-back sixes to take his tally to 13 sixes in the match.
Rohit became the first batsman to score two hundreds as an opener.
Trying to continue the carnage, Rohit stepped out and was stumped for the second time in the innings by De Kock off Maharaj.
Jadeja was castled by Rabada but his 40 off 32 balls added to India’s cause before they declared.
Earlier, the lower-order South African batsmen, especially Muthusamy, frustrated the hosts and scored valuable runs to bring the lead down to less than 100.
Muthusamy (33*) along with Maharaj (9) and Rabada (15) added 46 runs more before the visitors got bowled out for 431, conceding a first innings lead of 71.
Ashwin, who picked up his 27th five-wicket haul and 21st at home on Friday, scalped the remaining two wickets to end with figures of 7/145. Ravindra Jadeja picked up two wickets while Ishant Sharma contributed with one.
Brief Scores: India 323/4 declared and 502/7 declared (Rohit Sharma 127, Cheteshwar Pujara 81, Keshav Maharaj 2/129); South Africa 431 (Dean Elgar 160, Quinton de Kock 111; R Ashwin 7/145) & 11/1 (Aiden Markram 3 batting, Theunis de Bruyn 5 batting)