Keshav Maharaj: It was Mayank Agarwal and Rohit Sharma's day
Keshav Maharaj bowled 55 of the 146 overs in India's first-innings 502 for seven declared, for returns of three for 189
Visakhapatnam: It's just as well that Keshav Maharaj loves bowling. On the evidence of the fare South Africa's other spinners dished out at the ACA-VDCA Stadium in the first Test, the left-arm spinner will be required to bowl plenty as the series travels to Pune and Ranchi.
Maharaj bowled 55 of the 146 overs in India's first-innings 502 for seven declared, for returns of three for 189. He wasn't at his best, often neutralised by the slowness of the deck, but he was also quick to credit Rohit Sharma and Mayank Agarwal for their brilliance during an opening salvo of 317.
"Mayank played superbly well and so did Rohit," Maharaj said yesterday. "Literally everything they wanted to do came off, it was their day. They played within their zones, they put away the bad balls. Whatever they tried to do in terms of putting us under pressure paid off for them. Fair play. Mayank is also very new to international cricket but he just showed the maturity of someone that… It felt like he was a seasoned campaigner; he had a simple game plan and played within his strengths."
Maharaj and his mates had expected more help from the surface, but in the absence of any assistance, it was a long toil under an unforgiving sun. He did admit, however, that the bowling group could have been more economical. "Things didn't go according to plan in terms of not controlling the run-rate towards the last two days. It's probably one of the tougher surfaces I have bowled on in terms of playing a lot slower and not biting as much. You get slow turn but I felt the ball didn't really kick off the wicket. But towards the latter part of the day, there was a bit of assistance coming through."
Maharaj, three shy of 100 Test wickets, came to the press conference with a red ball gripped firmly in his left hand. "I love bowling. Whether the outcome is five wickets or two wickets or whatever the case may be, I love bowling," he smiled.
"As long as the feel in my hand is good, then I am on the right track. Long spells is something I have always wanted to bowl. Also, I am always playing with the ball, I like to fidget and also get used to the SG ball. It's very different to the Kookaburra ball. Just trying to adapt."
In that adaptability lies South Africa's hope of making a fist of this series.
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