Australia’s Ashes hero Steve Smith is ready to return to cricket after a much-needed break since returning home from England.

The batsman was a pivotal figure as Australia retained the Ashes with a 2-2 draw in England this European summer, having compiled 774 runs across four Tests for the Baggy Green.

Focus now turns to the Australian summer, with T20 series against Pakistan and Sri Lanka over the next month, and Smith says he feels refreshed after shaking off fatigue from the Ashes campaign.

"It was probably a bit of everything: mental, emotional, physical," Smith told reporters at Sydney Airport.

"Towards the last Test match it got to day two and my mind was saying 'keep going', but my body had shut down and wouldn't let me do anything.

"I was a little bit sick after that. I've had a good couple of weeks just to lay low. I just got back into things over the past week.

"I've had three hits now. That will be enough to be ready to go for this first Shield game."

Smith will make his first appearance in domestic first-class cricket since the 2018 ball-tampering scandal when NSW face Queensland in Thursday’s Sheffield Shield clash at the GABBA.

Our #SheffieldShield squad for our season opener against Queensland at the Gabba starting tomorrow! 

? https://t.co/4LZpCormJN #QLDvNSW pic.twitter.com/DgDLE7zmIV

— NSW Blues (@CricketNSWBlues) October 9, 2019

Questions have already been posed regarding the possibility of Smith captaining the Australia side again, with his leadership ban set to expire in 2020, but the 30-year-old played down speculation and praised the work of current skipper Tim Paine.

"I'm not even thinking about that at the moment," Smith said.

"I was pretty chilled out the whole time (in England). I'm obviously pretty intense when I am out there batting but I help out wherever I can.

"I don't want to sit back and not say something if I think it might help us. We will cross that bridge later if it comes. At the moment I am comfortable and Tim is doing a great job."

Smith is expected to make a domestic return to Test action in November when Australia host Pakistan in a three-match series.

First Alec Stewart was seen as the leading candidate. Then Gary Kirsten became the front-runner for the job. In the end, though, Chris Silverwood came up on the rails to become England's new head coach.

The 44-year-old nicknamed 'Spoons' may not be a top-drawer name in comparison to others linked with the high-profile vacancy, but he has undoubtedly earned his opportunity.

Promoted from his role as bowling coach under previous coach Trevor Bayliss, Silverwood made clear his focus in the statement confirming his appointment: "I aim to continue the great work that has been done over the past five years and build on our future, especially in the Test arena."

So, who is the man now in charge of the England team? We take a look at his career path to the job, as well as highlighting some of the key issues he faces at the start of his reign.

 

Playing days and coaching success

Born in Pontefract, Yorkshireman Silverwood spent the majority of his playing career at his home county before finishing up at Middlesex. A lively pace bowler, he played six Tests and seven one-day games for England but never truly established himself at international level.

His reputation as a coach was forged at domestic level with Essex, first working with the county's bowlers before taking over in charge of the first team in 2016.

He immediately led them to promotion from Division Two and then, the following year, they were crowned county champions for the first time in 25 years.

Their success was spearheaded by a Kolpak recruit in Simon Harmer, yet the team also contained plenty of homegrown talent.  He helped seamer Jamie Porter rise to become one of the most consistent wicket-takers in first-class cricket, while batsman Tom Westley also earned international recognition during his watch.

Crucially for Essex, the foundations were laid for future success. This year, under the guidance of Silverwood's former assistant Anthony McGrath, a familiar-looking squad has won both the Vitality Blast and the County Championship again. 

"In his time with Essex, his outstanding leadership and interpersonal skills were a major factor in taking our cricket to the next level," John Faragher, Essex chairman, told the county's official website.

 

Moving on up

Silverwood's work with Essex unsurprisingly led to a job with England, as he was appointed bowling coach in 2017.

Working as part of Bayliss' staff, he was involved in the successful Cricket World Cup campaign on home soil earlier this year, with the tournament hosts aided by the emergence of Jofra Archer.

However, Silverwood has remained very much in the background, rarely talking to the media. Still, his work – and his words – were enough to convince the powers that be when it came to the main job.

"Chris demonstrated in his interview a clear understanding and strategy of how both the red and white ball teams need to evolve. He has some detailed thoughts on what it will take to win the Ashes in Australia and win major ICC white-ball tournaments," Ashley Giles, managing director of the England team, said in a statement.

"Over the past couple of years, he has been an integral member of developing the teams’ culture and emerging a cohesive relationship across the team's management group."

Giles' quotes contained two key words - "Ashes" and "culture".

England have undoubtedly prioritised white-ball cricket in recent years – and with great success, too – but a failure to beat Australia on home soil in Bayliss' final Test series in charge has shifted the longer format back into focus.

When it comes to culture, England's hierarchy have gone with a homegrown option. Australian Bayliss admitted he did not pay too much attention to county cricket – that will not be the case with Silverwood, who has a wealth of experience as both a player and a coach.

Yet Silverwood has also seen what exactly is required to prosper in the international game. To that extent, he also has an advantage in knowing how both Joe Root - who will work alongside his fellow Yorkshireman with the Test team - and white-ball specialist Eoin Morgan tick, having been part of the inner sanctum for a couple of years.

 

Planning for the future

A busy schedule, that’s what. International cricket is a non-stop treadmill, though the grind of games all-year round is nothing new to Silverwood.

While there is a Twenty20 World Cup coming up next year, England are a well-oiled machine in white-ball cricket. There may be players who emerge in the coming months to force their way in - just as Archer did once he was available - but the bulk of the group is already known, and Morgan is an experienced leader with clear plans on how his team should play.

So, as Silverwood said himself, Test cricket is to be the main focus.  In the near future, there are tours to New Zealand and South Africa coming up, but the long-term aim is winning the Ashes Down Under in 2021-22.

Archer has added some much-needed pace to go alongside England's leading two wicket-takers in James Anderson (fitness permitting) and Stuart Broad. On their last visit to Australia, the attack was distinctly lacking in terms of speed, such a crucial factor in conditions where swing is less of a factor.

The batting, though, requires serious work - less of a cosmetic job and more a case of knocking it down and starting again.

Silverwood needs to begin the rebuild at the top, with England desperately needing to establish a regular top three. Root looks set to return to four, while the talk from national selector Ed Smith after Jonny Bairstow was dropped for the New Zealand series suggests he should concentrate just on batting, rather than continuing behind the stumps.

Ben Stokes is a certainty in the middle order, but Silverwood has to be careful with overburdening the all-rounder.

As with others who play all formats, workload management will be key for Stokes. Being England coach is often about spinning plates, but the complexities of the job are nothing new for Silverwood, the quiet man who now gets the chance to set the tone after stepping out from the background.

Chris Silverwood has been appointed as England head coach.

Silverwood took over as England fast bowling coach under Trevor Bayliss early last year and it was announced on Monday he is the man to succeed the Australian.

Bayliss decided to bring his four-year reign, which included a Cricket World Cup triumph in July, to an end at the conclusion of the Ashes series last month.

Former India and South Africa coach Gary Kirsten had also been considered for the position, but the ECB's selection panel decided Silverwood was clearly the best option.

Director of England men's cricket Ashley Giles said: "We are delighted to confirm Chris as England men's head coach. We have gone through a thorough process and looked at all the options that were available to us. Chris was the standout candidate.

"I believe he is what we need to take our international teams forward. He is somebody we know well, but it is his intimate understanding of our structures and systems and his close relationships with Test captain Joe Root and white-ball captain Eoin Morgan that will help us develop our plans for the next few years.

"He has performed exceptionally well during his role as an assistant coach and has the ultimate respect of the players that have worked with him.

"Chris demonstrated in his interview a clear understanding and strategy of how both the red and white ball teams need to evolve. He has some detailed thoughts on what it will take to win the Ashes in Australia and win major ICC white-ball tournaments.

"Ultimately, his highest quality is that he is a winner and that will be an important part of the job as we look to strive to become the most respected team in the world across all formats."

Bayliss delivered on his brief of transforming England into a force in limited-overs cricket, that plan reaching its culmination as they dramatically won the World Cup on home soil.

However, England have struggled for consistency in Test cricket and failed to regain the urn in this year's Ashes, which ended in a 2-2 draw.

Silverwood will soon have a chance to turn around England's fortunes in the longest format. England face New Zealand in two Tests, the first starting on November 21, after five T20 matches in their tour of the country.

A tour to South Africa follows, beginning at the end of the year, with Silverwood hopeful England can make it a positive start to his tenure.

"I am thrilled and honoured to be appointed England head coach," he said. "I aim to continue the great work that has been done over the past five years and build on our future, especially in the Test arena.

"I have enjoyed working with the players over the past two seasons and developing the best crop of talent in the English game.

"I am excited to get started and build teams that the whole game can be proud of. There is a tremendous amount of talent coming through and there is enormous potential for growth. The hard work starts now and I am confident we can make a positive impact during our winter tours of New Zealand and South Africa."

South Africa will consider adding an extra paceman to their attack for the second Test against India in Pune after suffering a 203-run defeat in Visakhapatnam.

Mohammed Shami took five of the nine wickets to fall on Sunday as the Proteas - requiring a notional 395 for victory - collapsed from 11-1 to 70-8 and were eventually dismissed for 191.

Prior to Shami's masterful exploitation of a wearing fifth-day pitch, there had been little assistance on offer for the seamers.

However, Lungi Ngidi or Anrich Nortje could be called upon by the tourists for next week's second Test, starting on Thursday, after spinners Dane Piedt and Senuran Muthusamy struggled to make an impact with the ball in support of fellow slow bowler Keshav Maharaj.

In a news conference, South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis said: "Apart from today [Sunday], seamers didn't play that much of a role in this Test match. They played a holding role in the first four days. Whether an extra seamer would have made a difference, I am not sure.

"But definitely day five, we saw that there was huge value in the seam, the up and down. It is something for us to consider moving into the next Test match."

Piedt and Muthusamy did at least impress with the bat, striking 56 and 49 not out respectively on the final day after the latter had also made an unbeaten 33 in the first innings of his debut Test.

Given Muthusamy was selected as an all-rounder rather than a frontline bowler, his position in the side looks more secure than that of Piedt.

"You can see technically he is very sound against spin, which is something he has worked really hard on," said Du Plessis of Muthusamy.

"Obviously he bowls a bit as well so that helps. Batting in that number seven or number eight position is always something we are looking for as a team.

"He batted with real maturity in both innings and is making it hard for us to leave him out of the second Test. He is putting the numbers on the scoreboard, which is what we want.

"It's about finding the balance - which are our best wicket-taking options? But also you definitely need to have one element of control in the sub-continent. Those are the conversations that we will have."

Virat Kohli was keen to highlight the impressive efforts of his bowlers after India completed a resounding 203-run victory over South Africa in the first Test at Visakhapatnam.

Any hopes the Proteas had of batting out the final day were effectively ended before lunch as they slumped from 11-1 to 70-8, Mohammed Shami and Ravindra Jadeja each striking three times in the morning session with the latter's wickets all coming in one over.

Debutant Senuran Muthusamy (49 not out) and Dane Piedt (56) delayed the inevitable with a defiant ninth-wicket partnership of 91 but South Africa were still bowled out for 191 as Shami returned to complete a five-wicket haul.

There was also a landmark wicket for Ravichandran Ashwin on Sunday. The off-spinner's dismissal of Theunis de Bruyn was his 350th in Tests and came after he had returned 7-145 in the Proteas' first innings.

India's opening batsmen played key roles in their win, with Mayank Agarwal compiling 215 across the first two days and Rohit Sharma making 176 and 127 in a stunning first Test at the top of the order.

Although South Africa replied to India's 502-7 declared with 431, the hosts' second-innings score of 323-4 laid the platform for a dominant win.

"When you put 500 on the board you are always ahead of the game," said Kohli in the post-match presentation. "I think Rohit was outstanding in both innings, Mayank along with him in the first innings, brilliant.

"The batting heroes were obvious, but I think the bowlers had it tougher in this game, to keep going with the conditions, so they deserve a lot of credit as well."

Kohli described the performances of Jadeja and Ashwin as "really, really good", before praising Shami for his superb final-day showing.

"Shami has been a strike bowler for us in the second innings consistently now," the captain added. "If you see all his four- and five-wicket hauls, they invariably come in the second innings when the team needs it. [When] the ball is reversing a bit, that's his strength."

Man of the match Rohit revealed he had been well-prepared for his first experience as a Test opener.

"A couple of years ago it was communicated to me that you might open at some stage, so I was prepared for it," he explained.

"Even in the nets whenever I was not playing a Test match, I would practice with the red ball, with the new ball. In my mind I was pretty much ready to have that opportunity any time.

"I wouldn't say it came to me as a surprise, I was ready for it. It was a great opportunity for me at the top of the order, doing it for the first time, so I just wanted to enjoy the moment. At the same time, I'm really thankful to the coach, captain and the selectors for giving me that opportunity."

Virat Kohli was keen to highlight the impressive efforts of his bowlers after India completed a resounding 203-run victory over South Africa in the first Test at Visakhapatnam.

Any hopes the Proteas had of batting out the final day were effectively ended before lunch as they slumped from 11-1 to 70-8, Mohammed Shami and Ravindra Jadeja each striking three times in the morning session with the latter's wickets all coming in one over.

Debutant Senuran Muthusamy (49 not out) and Dane Piedt (56) delayed the inevitable with a defiant ninth-wicket partnership of 91 but South Africa were still bowled out for 191 as Shami returned to complete a five-wicket haul.

There was also a landmark wicket for Ravichandran Ashwin on Sunday. The off-spinner's dismissal of Theunis de Bruyn was his 350th in Tests and came after he had returned 7-145 in the Proteas' first innings.

India's opening batsmen played key roles in their win, with Mayank Agarwal compiling 215 across the first two days and Rohit Sharma making 176 and 127 in a stunning first Test at the top of the order.

Although South Africa replied to India's 502-7 declared with 431, the hosts' second-innings score of 323-4 laid the platform for a dominant win.

"When you put 500 on the board you are always ahead of the game," said Kohli in the post-match presentation. "I think Rohit was outstanding in both innings, Mayank along with him in the first innings, brilliant.

"The batting heroes were obvious, but I think the bowlers had it tougher in this game, to keep going with the conditions, so they deserve a lot of credit as well."

Kohli described the performances of Jadeja and Ashwin as "really, really good", before praising Shami for his superb final-day showing.

"Shami has been a strike bowler for us in the second innings consistently now," the captain added. "If you see all his four- and five-wicket hauls, they invariably come in the second innings when the team needs it. [When] the ball is reversing a bit, that's his strength."

Man of the match Rohit revealed he had been well-prepared for his first experience as a Test opener.

"A couple of years ago it was communicated to me that you might open at some stage, so I was prepared for it," he explained.

"Even in the nets whenever I was not playing a Test match, I would practice with the red ball, with the new ball. In my mind I was pretty much ready to have that opportunity any time.

"I wouldn't say it came to me as a surprise, I was ready for it. It was a great opportunity for me at the top of the order, doing it for the first time, so I just wanted to enjoy the moment. At the same time, I'm really thankful to the coach, captain and the selectors for giving me that opportunity."

India completed a thumping 203-run win over South Africa in the first Test at Visakhapatnam, despite some valiant lower-order resistance from the tourists on day five.

Ninth-wicket pair Senuran Muthusamy and Dane Piedt put on 91 either side of lunch to delay the inevitable, after the Proteas had collapsed to 70-8 at the hands of Ravindra Jadeja and Mohammed Shami.

Piedt brought up his maiden half-century during the defiant stand, while debutant Muthusamy was left stranded on 49 not out when Shami (5-35) ousted Kagiso Rabada for 18 to complete his five-wicket haul and bring the contest to an end.

South Africa were dismissed for 191, the damage having been done in a dramatic morning session highlighted by Jadeja (4-87) claiming three wickets in one over.


While Shami and Jadeja were the final-day heroes for India, the hosts' position of dominance owed much to Rohit Sharma, who marked his first Test as an opener with twin hundreds, first-innings double-centurion Mayank Agarwal and Ravichandran Ashwin (7-145 in South Africa's first dig).

After resuming on 11-1, the tourists' slim hopes of batting out the final day were soon dented significantly as Ashwin cleaned up Theunis de Bruyn in the second over of the day to claim his 350th Test wicket in only his 66th match.

De Bruyn was the first of four South African batsmen in succession to be bowled, with Temba Bavuma (0), skipper Faf du Plessis (12) and Quinton de Kock (0) all falling to Shami as variable bounce made batting increasingly tricky.

Jadeja then took centre stage in the 27th over, first taking a return catch to dismiss Aiden Markram, who had dug in to make 39, before trapping Vernon Philander and Keshav Maharaj lbw with successive balls.

To their credit, Muthusamy and Piedt battled through to lunch and then extended their partnership into the afternoon, the latter bringing up his first Test fifty from 86 balls with eight fours and a six.

It took the return of Shami to finally break the stand, the experienced paceman bowling Piedt with the first ball of a new spell.

Last man Rabada thumped four boundaries but he too fell victim to Shami, denying Muthusamy a half-century.

The second of three Tests starts at Pune on Thursday.

India all-rounder Hardik Pandya has vowed to be "back in no time" after undergoing lower back surgery.

Pandya was stretchered off after damaging his back during an Asia Cup encounter with Pakistan in September 2018.

The 25-year-old recovered to take his part in the Cricket World Cup, but did not feature in the tour of West Indies after the tournament in England and Wales. 

Pandya returned in the home Twenty20 International series against South Africa last month, but now faces a period of rehabilitation after going under the knife in London.

A BCCI press release stated: "Hardik Pandya complained of lower back pain after India's final T20I against South Africa in Bengaluru on 22nd September.

"The BCCI Medical Team consulted a panel of spine specialists in England and they recommended surgery for a long-term solution of this issue.

"The all-rounder travelled to London on 2nd October with Team India physiotherapist Mr Yogesh Parmar. On Friday, a successful surgery was conducted. Hardik will soon commence his rehabilitation process."

Pandya tweeted: "Surgery done successfully. Extremely grateful to everyone for your wishes. Will be back in no time! Till then miss me."

Rohit Sharma scored his second century in the match before Ravindra Jadeja picked up a late wicket on day four to boost India's hopes of victory in the first Test. 

Opener Rohit followed up his 176 in the first innings with 127 on Saturday to help set up a declaration, with the visitors reaching stumps on 11-1 in pursuit of an unlikely victory target of 395. 

The Proteas lost first-innings centurion Dean Elgar for two in fading light, Jadeja getting the late breakthrough with the aid of DRS after his lbw appeal was initially rejected by on-field umpire Richard Illingworth. 

Aiden Markram was unbeaten on three while Theunis de Bruyn was five not out at the close, though the tourists will have to survive a final-day trial by spin if they are to escape Visakhapatnam unscathed. 

Rohit launched seven sixes in his ton, meaning he has now hit the most for his country in all three formats of the game, to take his tally for the match to 13, in the process beating Wasim Akram's record for a single Test. 

The more patient Cheteshwar Pujara contributed 81 during a second-wicket stand of 169 for the hosts, who had been frustrated by South Africa's tail in the morning session before Ravichandran Ashwin claimed the final two wickets in the Proteas' first innings to finish with 7-145. 

Senuran Muthusamy ended up unbeaten on 33 as he combined with Keshav Maharaj (9) and Kagiso Rabada (15) to lift their side's final total to 431, limiting India's advantage to 71 runs. 

Mayank Agarwal (7) was an early casualty for India but they steadily built on their advantage on a pitch providing plenty of assistance to the slow bowlers. 

Rohit became only the second India opener to score centuries in both innings – following in the footsteps in the Sunil Gavaskar – as he moved through the gears, his onslaught eventually ended when he was stumped off Maharaj. 

Promoted up the order following Pujara's departure, Jadeja cleared the boundary three times himself to make 40, while captain Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane were 31 and 27 not out when the former declared at 323-4. 

Dean Elgar's first century against India helped South Africa mount a spirited fightback at Visakhapatnam, but the Proteas still have work to do after finishing day three of the first Test on 385-8, 117 runs behind.

After India had declared on 502-7 the day before, Elgar (160) and Quinton de Kock (111) were in inspired form, leading South Africa through several moments when it looked as though the hosts' attack was getting on top.

Elgar did offer a chance to wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha on 74, but he escaped and went on to take full advantage, playing the spinners with skill and application as he secured his 12th Test hundred before eventually becoming Ravindra Jadeja's 200th Test victim.

De Kock also caught the eye, while the 55-run contribution from captain Faf du Plessis was applaudable, though India still find themselves in control ahead of day four, with the knocks from Mayank Agarwal (215) and Rohit Sharma (176) on Tuesday proving vital.

The tourists were soon reduced to 63-4 after resuming in deep trouble on 39-3, Ishant Sharma trapping Temba Bavuma in front for 18, but a stand of 115 between Elgar and Du Plessis frustrated India.

Elgar clattered Jadeja for two sixes in an over and was given a life when he edged the same bowler behind but Saha was unable to cling on and the Proteas recovered to 153-4 at lunch.

Du Plessis continued to play positively, dancing down the track to hit Ravichandran Ashwin down the ground for six and the captain had his half-century early in the afternoon session.

He failed to go on, though, and his assertive knock ended tamely when he was taken by Cheteshwar Pujara at leg slip off Ashwin. 

Elgar continued to play the spinners with authority and the left-hander brought up a hard-earned hundred in style by slog-sweeping Ashwin for a fourth six of his outstanding innings.

De Kock adopted his usual aggressive approach, showing great timing with classy drives as the runs flowed and the wicketkeeper-batsman raced to 50 in 79 balls. 

Elgar took two boundaries off a Jadeja over to move on to 150, but the opener finally fell out of the blue, departing to a standing ovation after Pujara held on running in from square leg to allow Jadeja to reach his milestone.

Ajinkya Rahane failed to take a difficult chance to remove Senuran Muthusamy without scoring and De Kock took the same approach as Elgar to move to three figures, dispatching Ashwin for a big six.

De Kock's resistance eventually failed on 111, however, Ashwin sending a wicked delivery through the gate and he then claimed Vernon Philander for a duck from the final wicket of the day.

Mayank Agarwal's double-century helped India build up a huge lead before spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja tightened their grip on the first Test against South Africa.

Batting in only his eighth Test innings - and his first in India - Agarwal (215) became the 23rd Indian batsman to post a double century in the longest format, having shared a 317-run opening stand with Rohit Sharma (176).

Virat Kohli eventually called his men in when they were 502-7 in the day's final session, and Ashwin and Jadeja took three wickets between them in the 20 overs South Africa's batsmen faced to leave them firmly up against it.

Aiden Markram, Theunis de Bruyn and Dane Piedt all fell as the Proteas closed on 39-3, still 463 runs adrift.

Rohit resumed on 115 and Agarwal, 84 overnight, soon joined him in reaching three figures - the openers then going on to become only the third Indian pair to have a first-wicket partnership worth 300.

South Africa finally made a breakthrough when Rohit, one shy of his best Test score, was stumped off Keshav Maharaj (3-189) in his first innings as an opener.

Cheteshwar Pujara fell from the first ball after lunch and captain Kohli (20) meekly chipped back to bowler Senuran Muthusamy to give him his first Test dismissal before Agarwal reached his double century off 358 balls.

After Ajinkya Rahane became the fourth man out, Agarwal's knock was finally ended when Piedt took a diving catch at deep midwicket from Dean Elgar's only over, with Kohli declaring after Jadeja (30 not out) helped take India past 500.

South Africa then lost Markram at the start of their eighth over, a delivery from Ashwin (2-9) that snuck between bat and pad, and the same bowler found De Bruyn's edge to leave the Proteas two down.

Nightwatchman Piedt was bowled by Jadeja (1-21) six balls later, meaning Elgar (27 not out) and Temba Bavuma (7no) will start day three needing to drag their team out of the mire.

Rohit Sharma justified his promotion to opening batsman with a classy century as India dominated a shortened day one of the first Test against South Africa in Visakhapatnam.

Captain Virat Kohli said this week the decision to bump Rohit – who has been in and out of India's team in the five-day format – up the order had been discussed "for a long time".

It was a move that paid immediate dividends as Rohit, six years on from a debut Test century, scored a classy unbeaten 115 off 174 balls, his knock including 12 fours and five sixes.

Mayank Agarwal (84 not out) was just 16 runs shy of a maiden Test hundred before rain brought an early end to proceedings just after 15:30pm local time.

Rohit and Agarwal put on India's 13th 200-run stand and South Africa's attack lacked the cutting edge to trouble India's openers, save for a tricky opening half-hour, and the hosts will resume day two on 202-0.

South Africa's three-pronged spin attack of Keshav Maharaj, Dane Piedt and Senuran Muthusamy toiled against the brilliance of Rohit, who was unbeaten on 52 by the time India were 91-0 at lunch.

Comfortable on the back foot and not afraid to play down the track, Rohit saw out a difficult opening spell to bed himself in, with Agarwal also making South Africa's bowlers pay whenever they over-pitched.

There was little respite in the afternoon session, Rohit accelerating with back-to-back sixes off Piedt in the 50th over and even his most ardent critics were celebrating when he raised his bat to salute a century shortly after.

An early tea for rain brought some relief for South Africa and the adverse weather meant no more play was possible on a day where India dominated.

Virat Kohli has given his backing to returning wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha after India opted to leave out Rishabh Pant for the first Test against South Africa.

Saha has not played Test cricket since January 2018 due to a series of injuries - notably a serious shoulder problem - and Pant earned a regular role in his place, starting with the tour of England last year.

But, on the eve of the series with South Africa, India have recalled the 34-year-old, meaning Pant - to the surprise of many – is dropped from the XI.

Captain Kohli appeared to suggest it was a straightforward call, though, describing Saha as "the best keeper in the world".

"Saha is fit and fine to go," Kohli told a news conference. "He's going to start for us in this series and his keeping credentials are there for everyone to see.

"He's played well for us whenever he's got a chance, with the bat also, and it was unfortunate that he was out for such a long period because of an injury.

"For me, he's the best keeper in the world, so in these conditions, with what he's done in the past, he starts for us."

Kohli revealed Saha had almost come into the side for the previous Test series against West Indies, but India decided to stay patient and stick with Pant in the short term.

"Saha was almost going to start [that series in the Caribbean], but we felt it was better to let him ease back into things, rather than forcing him again into starting immediately," Kohli said.

"We all felt that he'd just come back and, although he was keeping well and batting well, it was fair to give Rishabh a few more opportunities because of what he's done in the past season for us.

"But Saha was always going to be someone who we would back as a pure keeper in Test cricket. He has done well under pressure situation also in the past for us.

"It was just about finding the right opportunity and moment to bring him back in."

India had already confirmed Rohit Sharma will open the batting against the Proteas, while Ravichandran Ashwin comes back into the team for the game in Visakhapatnam.

Afghanistan have appointed Lance Klusener as their new head coach.

The former South Africa all-rounder takes over following the departure of Phil Simmons, who left the post after the Cricket World Cup, with Andy Moles having served as interim coach for the recent tour of Bangladesh.

Klusener, who played 49 Tests and 171 ODI games for the Proteas, has filled a number of different roles since ending his playing career, including serving as batting coach for Zimbabwe in 2016.

He has also worked with Mumbai Indians' bowlers in the Indian Premier League, as well as being part of interim team director Enoch Nkwe's staff for the Twenty20 series during South Africa's ongoing tour of India.

"I am extremely excited and honoured to be given the opportunity to work with some of the best talent in world cricket," Klusener said.

"Everyone knows the fearless brand of cricket Afghanistan play. I am very confident that with some hard work we can become one of the best sides in the world.

"I am really looking forward to working with the Afghanistan team and helping them take their cricket to the next level."

India's star paceman Jasprit Bumrah will miss the upcoming Tests against South Africa with a back issue.

The sides drew 1-1 in their rain-affected three-match Twenty20 series but India have been dealt a blow ahead of the opening Test against the Proteas next week as Bumrah has been ruled out.

The 25-year-old has suffered a minor stress fracture in his lower back, the Board of Control for Cricket in India said in a short statement on Twitter, and he has been replaced by Umesh Yadav.

Bumrah has enjoyed an outstanding start to life in Test cricket since his January 2018 debut.

He has played 12 Tests and collected 62 wickets, including an impressive five five-wicket hauls, taking a hat-trick in his last match against West Indies in August.

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