In just under five sessions of play at Olympia Park in Rustenburg, India A have had three big reasons to feel good about. Following skipper Cheteshwar Pujara's 137 on the first day, Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina also scored hundreds to push India's total to a 582 for 9 against South Africa A on Sunday.
A major feature of this tour of South Africa was always going to be how India's batsmen, namely the three Test specialists and the fringe batsmen, would perform in these two unofficial Tests. So far, three of them have ticked the right boxes. Pujara, India's Test No. 3, was named in the A squad so he could reacclimatise with conditions in the country - he played two Tests here on the 2010-11 tour - and his 203-ball ton on day one was another fine and precise effort from the talented 25-year-old. In the process of scoring his 21st first-class century, Pujara also crossed 6500 career runs.
Rohit, who has yet to play a Test despite making 102 ODI appearances in over six years, finished on 70 at stumps on Saturday having helped put on 176 with Pujara. On day two, he progressed to three figures before falling to JP Duminy for 119 off 257 balls, inclusive of 14 fours and a couple sixes. The standout feature of Rohit's century was his driving through the offside and cutting, especially against the fast bowlers.
The third centurion was Raina, who made 135 off 177 balls with 14 fours and three sixes. Raina walked in with the cushion of 376 runs already on the board and this surely boosted his confidence, but in scoring a brisk century he has pushed his chances of a recall to India's Test squad. Raina's Test career has been hampered due to a susceptibility to short-pitched bowling, but against South Africa A's quicks he played some good horizontal-bat shots. Of his 14 boundaries, four were via the pull shot of either Kyle Abbott, Wayne Parnell or Simon Harmer - the three fast men in the XI.
The notable failure of the innings was Ajinkya Rahane, also a contender for a middle-order berth in the Test team come November. He could only make 10 before turning Duminy to short leg. Shikhar Dhawan made 11 on day one but is an automatic pick as opener in the Test side.
Considering these two matches are an audition for India's Test tour of South Africa later in 2013, the early form produced by Rohit and Raina augurs well for their careers and the national team. Now they must sustain it and score heavily in the remainder of the series. The second unofficial Tests starts at Pretoria on August 24.
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