Rahul hits century, India 272-3 on 1st day vs. South Africa

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CENTURION, South Africa (AP) — KL Rahul was 122 not out and India reached 272-3 at stumps to lay a strong foundation on the opening day of the first test against South Africa in Centurion on Sunday.

Opener Rahul batted through the day to ensure top-ranked India's latest quest for a first test series win in South Africa had a promising start.

He shared a 117-run opening stand with Mayank Agarwal (60) and although Lungi Ngidi (3-45) took two wickets in two deliveries after lunch — Agarwal and then Cheteshwar Pujara for a first-ball duck — India rode that period of pressure in the second session to come out clearly on top after the first exchanges of the three-test series.

Captain Virat Kohli was the other Indian batter to be dismissed, also to Ngidi for 35.

But vice captain Ajinkya Rahane picked up where Kohli left off to be 40 not out alongside Rahul at stumps. They put on an unbeaten stand of 73 and India constructed one century partnership and two half-century partnerships for its first four wickets of the series to ensure Kohli's decision to bat first after winning the toss at SuperSport Park was the right one.

India's start was strong, going through the first session without losing a wicket to be 83-0 at lunch.

Agarwal was dropped by wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock in that morning session — a tough chance from an edge that de Kock dived to his right for but couldn't hold one-handed. That denied 6-foot-8 South Africa seam bowler Marco Jansen a wicket on his test debut.

Ngidi eventually removed Agarwal lbw after a review, and the quick struck again straight away when Pujara was caught at short leg next ball, offering South Africa some hope that they might reign in the Indian batters.

Kohli was caught by Wiaan Mulder at slip trying to drive Ngidi and ending up flashing at a delivery well wide of off stump, but Rahul and Rahane came together and drove India on.

Rahul has hit 17 fours and a six.

The series is the first assignment away from home for new India coach Rahul Dravid and India is searching for its first win in South Africa on its eighth test tour to the country.

There were no major surprises in the tourists' lineup with Jasprit Bumrah leading a four-man seam bowling attack and Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj backing him up.

South Africa gave Jansen his international debut in the absence of Anrich Nortje, its most effective fast bowler who is out of the series with injury. Fast bowler Duanne Olivier, who has returned from a spell playing in England and is back in South Africa's squad, was not recalled despite being widely tipped to return. The home team might end up ruing that decision after its quick bowlers didn't make the impact it was hoping for at the start of the contest.

There was a moment's silence before play for South Africa's anti-apartheid icon Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who died early Sunday.


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