Pujara, Rohit put India A in control
India A 281 for 3 (Pujara 137, Rohit 70*) v South Africa A
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Cheteshwar Pujara hit his 21st first-class century in a 176-run partnership with Rohit Sharma as India A dominated the opening day of the first unofficial Test against South Africa A in Rustenburg. Pujara won the toss on a dry pitch, and put his team on their way to a big score with his second hundred of the tour. Quite contrary to what the senior India side will likely encounter on their South Africa trip in November, the wicket played slow and aided turn, with spinners sending down 36 of the 90 overs bowled.
Pujara arrived at the fall of Shikhar Dhawan for 11 in the 17th over, and it took the second new ball to dislodge him in the 84th over, by when he had breezed to 137 off 203 deliveries with 17 fours. Rohit, yet to play a Test after 102 ODIs, ended the day unbeaten on 70 in the company of Ajinkya Rahane, who came in at No. 5 after once having been in contention for an opening spot.
The India A batsmen were playing their first first-class game since Australia's tour of India in February and March. For Dhawan, it was his first long-form innings since his sensational Test debut in Mohali. Dhawan and Vijay were cautious against the new ball, with India A managing only 20 in 14 overs in the first hour. Spin was introduced after drinks, and Dhawan took on the offspinner Simon Harmer immediately, sweeping him for six. He fell on the same shot in Harmer's next over though, edging to slip.
Vijay batted through the opening session, driving for several boundaries through the covers, and also edging a couple through the slip cordon. He fell just before the drinks break after lunch, going caught behind for 44 off the fast bowler Andrew Birch.
Pujara had nearly caught up with Vijay by this time. The India A captain collected most of his boundaries through the cut, which is one of his strengths. Rohit was strong on the drive and cut as well.
Pujara picked up more pace after reaching his hundred in the 73rd over. He attacked the second new ball with a series of cuts, before missing an inswinger from Wayne Parnell to be bowled. Rohit and Rahane saw off six overs till stumps without further damage.
"Initially the wicket was doing a bit and when I went in to bat the off-spinner was turning the ball," Pujara said. "It was important to stay at the crease and to avoid losing more wickets. It was difficult to score at the beginning but once I was set I could play my shots."
Vincent Barnes, the South Africa A coach, was reasonably satisfied with his attack. "I thought we stuck to our guns for probably three-quarters of the day," Barnes said. "We kept them quiet. It was a strange type of wicket, there wasn't much in for the bowlers. There was also a period where we got a bit impatient and started looking for wickets.
"They played and left well, allowed themselves time to get in before they played risky shots and capitalised against the older ball.
"It will be important for us to get stuck in with a couple of early wickets. We have to be patient; it's not a wicket where you should try to do too many things, even though the ball is new."