South Africa had their tails up in the Ranchi Test after having dismissed Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara and more importantly, Virat Kohli cheaply. For the first time in the series, the South Africa aggression came to the fore. Unfortunately for them, they could not sustain the advantage. Rohit Sharma, who had set the tone for India's dominance with twin centuries in Vizag, stole the show yet again with a blazing century and giving him company was Ajinkya Rahane. The 185-run stand between the Mumbai duo helped India reach 224/3 against the Proteas before bad light and rain resulted in early stumps on day 1.
South Africa's desperation to make first use of the conditions with the bat went to great extents in Ranchi even before a ball was bowled. For the toss, Faf du Plessis brought out a 'proxy captain' in Temba Bavuma as he looked to snap his nightmare streak of nine consecutive toss losses in Asia. Luck did not favour Bavuma as well and India chose to bat. However, Kagiso Rabada answered the South Africa's demands for quick wickets when he got rid of Mayank Agarwal with an outswinger for 10.
Cheteshwar Pujara was the next to go for a duck as Rabada trapped him LBW with an inswinger that cut back in off the deck. In the same venue two years ago against Australia, Pujara had consumed over 600 balls and scored a double ton but here, fortunes turned against him. Virat Kohli looked ominous with two superb fours off Anrich Nortje. The Indian skipper looked confident and was aiming to dish out more pain to the Proteas like he did in the Pune game where he smashed plenty of records enroute to his record-breaking 254*.
However, Nortje set-up the Indian skipper brilliantly. After beating Kohli on the drive with an outswinger, Nortje slanted a good length ball in which darted back off the pitch to trap Kohli in front. A review was taken hastily by the skipper with replays showing that the ball was clipping the leg stump. South Africa were at their aggressive best. However, at the other end, Rohit had survived the first hour and he looked to take full toll.
After getting beaten by Rabada a couple of times, Rohit capitalised when South Africa decided to bowl short. The Mumbai right-hander unfurled the pull shot and he found the boundary on a regular basis. With Rohit attacking, South Africa strayed in their lines. Rohit neared his fifty with a top-edged six off Nortje over fine leg and he reached his fifty in style with a straight drive to the long off fence.
At the other end, Rahane was matching Rohit stroke for stroke and slowly, the tide turned against South Africa. In the second session, Rahane almost caught up with Rohit by smashing six boundaries in a couple of overs. When both Rohit and Rahane decided that attack was the best option, South Africa simply wilted and they had no answers.
Rohit neared his century with a couple of big hits off Dane Piedt and he reached his century in grand style with yet another six. The century also resulted in a new record for Rohit as he became the leading six-hitter by an Indian in a bilateral series, going past Harbhajan Singh's tally of 14 which he had made in the New Zealand series of 2010.
Apart from Rohit, Rahane was also in great touch and he signalled his intentions with a lofted six off Piedt. Towards the fag end of the session, the South Africa pacers were finding some reverse swing but with winter slowly settling in, the light faded quickly and play ended. After taking three quick wickets, South Africa felt they had an edge. But, Rohit dispelled it in a brutal manner.