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Kagiso Rabada takes five wickets but Rahul keeps Indian hopes alive

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South Africa’s fast bowler Kagiso Rabada took five wickets but a fighting innings by KL Rahul kept India’s hopes alive on the first day of the first Test at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Tuesday.

India were 208/8 when bad light followed by rain brought an early close.

Rabada took five for 44 – his 14th five-wicket haul in Test cricket.

Rahul, who made a century to set up an Indian win on the same ground two seasons ago, was unbeaten on 70.

Kagiso Rabada was outstanding for the hosts after they sent India in to bat on a pitch which had been under cover because of rain for 40 hours leading up to the morning of the match.

However, South Africa failed to take full advantage of helpful conditions. Left-arm fast bowler Nandre Burger was impressive in his first spell in Test cricket, taking two early wickets, but neither Marco Jansen nor Gerald Coetzee could find consistent control.

Rabada and Burger reduced India to 24 for three and India could have been in deeper trouble if South Africa had not missed chances from Virat Kohli (38) and Shreyas Iyer (31) in the early stages of a partnership which yielded 68 runs for the fourth wicket.

Iyer was on four when he was dropped by Jansen at backward point off Rabada and Kohli was on the same score when he was put down by Tony de Zorzi at midwicket off Burger in the next over.

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Kagiso Rabada dismissed both set batsmen as well as Ravichandran Ashwin in a three-wicket spell immediately after lunch.

Iyer was bowled by a ball which cut back off the pitch and Kohli was caught behind off a superb delivery which swung away late before Ashwin was caught at third slip off a steeply-lifting delivery.

Rahul and Shardul Thakur (24) put on 43 for the seventh wicket but Thakur twice needed treatment on the field after being hit on the helmet by Coetzee and his right arm when Rabada returned for his third spell.

Thakur played a loose drive to be caught at mid-off by stand-in captain Dean Elgar immediately after being treated for his second injury.

Rahul batted with composure and added 41 of the 44 runs scored for the loss of Jasprit Bumrah’s wicket after Thakur’s dismissal. When play was halted Rahul had faced 105 balls and hit ten fours and two sixes.

Elgar, who has announced he will be retiring from international cricket after the second Test in Cape Town next week, took charge after Temba Bavuma left the field with a strained left hamstring injury before lunch.

A bulletin from the South African dressing room stated that there would be “daily medical evaluations to determine his participation in the match”.

Bavuma’s decision to bowl first was not surprising given the conditions after prolonged rain in the days leading up to the match – but it is a ground on which batting has tended to become more difficult later in matches because of uneven bounce.

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