India's KL Rahul watches the ball after playing a shot during the first day of the first Test against South Africa
India's KL Rahul watches the ball after playing a shot during the first day of the first Test against South Africa Image Credit: AFP

KL Rahul and Virat Kohli kept India ticking despite double strikes by Lungi Ngidi as the tourists reached 157-2 at tea on Day 1 of the Boxing Day Test at Centurion. South Africa improved on their performance in the wicketless first session but Rahul and Mayank Agarwal crossed a century stand for the opening wicket while reaching their respective half-centuries. With Rahul and Kohli still at the crease, India are in a very good position in the match.

Ngidi trapped Agarwal lbw (60) with a delivery that came in from the back of a length and hit the pads after going past the inner edge, ending India’s opening stand at 117.

Ngidi’s in-swinger then took out Cheteshwar Pujara for a golden duck. But Rahul dug in and brought up his 13th Test fifty with a nicely timed cover drive off Ngidi. Kohli helped keep the scoreboard ticking ahead of the third session.

India were always looking strong. They were 83 for no loss at lunch, justifying captain Kohli’s decision to bat first on a green-tinged pitch after winning the toss.

New cap Marco Jansen created the only chance of the morning, having Agarwal dropped by wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock with his score on 36 and the total 52.

India captain Kohli won the toss and elected to bat in overcast conditions. He believes that the pitch will quicken up as the game goes on and that putting on a big first-innings score will be key for the tourists.

The South Africa team wore black armbands in honour of anti-apartheid icon Desmond Tutu, described as the country's moral compass, who died on Sunday aged 90. Both teams also held a minute's silence.

“Runs on the board and away from home that has been our strength. The wicket has grass on it and the pitch tends to get quicker as the game goes on,” Kohli said.

“This is a very challenging place to play cricket. We will have to be at our best.

South Africa sprung a surprise with their line-up, including tall fast bowler Jansen for his debut ahead of the returning Duanne Olivier, who had been expected to play his first Test since 2019.

India are hoping to secure a first ever Test series in South Africa with matches to follow in Johannesburg and Cape Town.