MUMBAI (Reuters) - Rohit Sharma completed a century in each innings in his maiden test as opener as India pressed for victory in the first test against South Africa by setting the touring side a daunting target of 395 at Visakhapatnam on Saturday.
India declared their second innings closed on 323 for four wickets with Rohit’s 127 the standout knock among useful contributions from the batsmen that followed.
Faced with the difficult task of batting in the fourth innings on a slow turning wicket to save the test, South Africa reached 11 for one at stumps with a day left in the match.
The touring side, who lost 3-0 the last time they came to India in 2015, have already lost first-innings centurion Dean Elgar for two to left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja after India successfully overturned a leg-before decision through review.
Limited-overs batting stalwart Rohit, who has cemented his place as an opener in the Twenty20 and 50-over formats, moved up to the top of the batting order against South Africa to resurrect his stop-start test career.
The team could not have asked for more from the 32-year-old right-hander as his quickfire century in the second innings, after his 176 in the first, aided India’s search for quick runs while they batted the opposition out of the equation for a win.
Rohit hit 10 fours and seven sixes in his 149-ball knock for a total of 13 sixes in the test, one more than Pakistan’s Wasim Akram who had held the record for most sixes since a 1996 test against Zimbabwe.
India lost opener Mayank Agarwal early but recovered strongly through a second-wicket stand of 169 between Rohit and Cheteshwar Pujara, who made a chance-filled 81 after his cheap dismissal in the first innings.
A double centurion in the first innings, Agarwal was out for seven when he edged Keshav Maharaj to slip.
There was not much luck otherwise for the South African bowlers as they toiled tirelessly on a hot and humid day unable to convert their half-chances.
Pujara edged between the slip and the wicketkeeper twice in the same over from fast bowler Kagiso Rabada while Rohit was caught on the boundary line but the fielder touched the padding with his foot for it to be declared a six.
South Africa, who fought back spectacularly from 63-4 in their first innings through centuries from Elgar and Quinton de Kock on Friday, were finally all out for 431 in the first session to concede a lead of 71.
Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin added two more wickets to his overnight five-wicket haul to finish with 7-145 after South Africa had resumed the day on 385 for eight.
Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Amlan Chakraborty and Clare Fallon