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India win toss, bat in first South Africa Test, Sharma hits 50



India’s Rohit Sharma, right, celebrates after scoring fifty runs with Mayank Agarwal, left, during the first day of the first cricket test match against South Africa in Visakhapatnam, India, Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)

VISAKHAPATNAM, India, Oct 2 (AFP) – India skipper Virat Kohli won the toss and elected to bat first in the opening Test against South Africa in Visakhapatnam on Wednesday.

The hosts had announced their team on Tuesday and Kohli said it was a great opportunity for Rohit Sharma to seal his spot as a Test opener in the three-match series.

“No brainer, going to bat. Looks a good wicket. Will play well for the first couple of days. Nature of the pitch is that it’ll get slower after that,” Kohli said at the toss.

“Great opportunity for Rohit at the top of the order. He’s excited to get the role clarity. It’s a new opportunity for him.”

South Africa, led by Faf du Plessis, have opted for two specialist spinners in Keshav Maharaj and Dane Piedt, while spin-bowling all-rounder Senuran Muthusamy has been handed his Test debut.

Du Plessis said his young team was ready for the challenge in India after the retirements of Hashim Amla and Dale Steyn in August.

“We’ve lost a few Test players, even in the last year or so. Fresh start for a lot of new faces. Very young group. Nice challenge for us,” said Du Plessis.

“These guys will be the next Dale Steyns and the next Hashim Amlas. Good to be at the start of the journey for them, have to try and play a mentorship role to get them through.”

India: Virat Kohli (capt), Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Hanuma Vihari, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Wriddhiman Saha, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami

South Africa: Faf du Plessis (capt), Aiden Markram, Dean Elgar, Theunis de Bruyn, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Vernon Philander, Senuran Muthusamy, Keshav Maharaj, Dane Piedt, Kagiso Rabada.

Rohit Sharma hits 50 as Test opener

Senior batsman Rohit Sharma struck a half-century in his first outing as Test opener to help India start strongly in the first match against South Africa on Wednesday.

Sharma — a star of India’s limited-overs teams — made 52 as the hosts reached 91 for no loss at lunch after electing to bat first at the start of the three-match series in Visakhapatnam.

The 32-year-old Sharma, playing his 28th Test, was put under pressure by the South African quicks early in the innings but gradually found his pace with partner Mayank Agarwal, on 39.

Sharma’s 84-ball knock so far witnessed glimpses of his big-hitting one-day form as he smashed five fours and two sixes to fire up a raucous home crowd.

He got to his 11th Test 50 with a cheeky boundary off debut spinner Senuran Muthusamy that was in the air but went wide of the fielder at backward square.