Ngidi strikes twice but India remain in control

South Africa fought back with a couple of wickets in the afternoon session via Lungi Ngidi but India still controlled the proceedings by reaching 157 for two at tea on day one of the first Test here on Sunday.

India scored 74 runs in the second session while Ngidi removed Mayank Agarwal (60 off 123) and Cheteshwar Pujara (0) off successive balls to provide the hosts much needed breakthroughs.

K L Rahul grew in confidence and was batting on 68 off 166 balls at the break alongside skipper Virat Kohli (19 batting off 54).

After struggling to hit the fuller lengths in the morning, South African pacers bowled with more consistency and attacked the stumps.

Agarwal, who got to his half century after lunch, was dismissed against the run of play.

The ball appeared to bounce over the wicket apart from missing the leg stump but the on-field decision was reversed when DRS revealed that it was hitting the wickets, leaving Agarwal in disbelief.

His fall also ended a memorable 117-run partnership, making Rahul and Agarwal only the third Indian opening pair to stitch a century stand in 21 games in South Africa.

With sun coming out, Pujara walked in and was dismissed first ball, inside edging a defensive shot to Keegan Petersen at short leg.

Soon after, Rahul brought up his fifty with a delightful cover drive off Ngidi.

Kohli, who has not scored a hundred in more than two years, began with an unconvincing drive off Marco Jansen before clipping spinner Keshav Maharaj wide of mid-on for his second boundary.

Rahul survived a close LBW call off medium pacer Wiaan Mulder late into the session before flicking a half-volley in his following over for his 11th boundary.

In the morning session, Agarwal and Rahul played with the required discipline in testing conditions to take India to 83 for no loss.

Kohli made a brave call to bat first on a greenish surface which is expected to get quicker as the game progresses.

Both Rahul and Agarwal, who are close friends and play for the same domestic team, left the ball well against a pace attack which did not bowl well enough in favourable conditions.

Agarwal carried his good from the home series against New Zealand to SuperSport Park while Rahul stuck to the approach that brought him a lot of success in England earlier this year when he opened the batting alongside the now injured Rohit Sharma.

Rahul was more watchful to start with, showing absolute clarity in leaving the ball while Agarwal was quick to cash in on freebies offered by the opposition pacers.

Agarwal drove Ngidi through point for the first four of the innings.

Rahul, who took 21 balls to get off the mark, played an exquisite straight drive off Kagiso Rabada to get going.

Debutant left-arm pacer Jansen made a nervy start to his career with Agarwal dispatching him for three fours in his opening over.

The 6 feet 8 inch bowler’s first ball in Test cricket was a gentle full toss which Agarwal duly dispatched through cover point. Then the lanky pacer bowled a couple into the pads which were crisply flicked away.

The South African pacers bowled a tad too short in the first hour of play. The Dean Elgar-led side also wasted a review early in the session.

The only chance that came South Africa’s way went begging with a diving Quinton de Kock dropping Agarwal off Jansen. He was batting on 36 at that time.

South Africa decided to leave out in-form pacer Duanne Oliver from the playing eleven while India picked the struggling Ajinkya Rahane ahead of Hanuma Vihari and Shreyas Iyer.